The Philippine Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and its counterpart in Qatar is set to sign an agreement promoting the rights of migrant workers, OFW advocate Susan Ople said Thursday.
“I’ve been informed [by the CHR] that for the first time, we will have a human rights agreement with the government of Qatar,” Ople said during a human rights forum in Quezon City.
“Sa Middle East kasi, Saudi [Arabia] and Qatar, ‘yan ang tinitignan. [But] Saudi is sensitive now. Kuwait is also more sensitive now. That’s why we have to seize the advantage,” she added.
Ople said this is a welcome development, as there will now be a policy that will protect the rights of OFWs amid the increase of human trafficking cases in the Middle East.
In a slideshow she presented at the forum, Ople said as many as 1,000 Filipinos, most of them domestic workers, have entered Iraq since 2015 despite the Alert Level 4, which bans the deploment of workers, imposed by the Department of Foreign Affairs.
These domestic workers were originally recruited for Dubai or Jordan, but Iraqi employers were willing to pay as much as $8,000 to get a foreign domestic worker, she added.
“Their passports are kept by the agencies, and workers are told not to contact the embassy,” Ople said.
One of these human trafficking victims was Laida Hajan, a domestic worker in Iraq, whose body was put in a freezer for two months after she died of pneumonia.
Hajan’s family had no idea about her death because her manpower agency failed to immediately inform the Philippine Embassy about it.
Her body is set to arrive to the country at 4 p.m. on Thursday, Ople said.
The agreement will also punish recruitment agencies and employers who are involved in human trafficking, Ople said.
“Nahahabol natin ‘yung mga tao dito, pero ‘yung agency sa Iraq na ayaw sabihin na patay na pala si Laida, ‘yun ang dapat nating matuligsa man lang,” she said.
“We know the names and faces of the abused women, but we never get to see the face of their abusers,” she added.
Ople encouraged the government to take a more active role in promoting human rights for migrant workers. “As long as there are people who profit from OFWs and see this as a business, human rights will always take second place,” she said. —KBK, GMA News