Jun Medina (writing for FilAm Star) says that human traffickers “are running circles on Philippine authorities” who are worried about the dire situation of Filipinos, despite a crackdown on their illegal deployment “for non-existent jobs in earthquake-ravaged Haiti.”
This is the grim assessment of Filipino Community (FilCom) leaders in Haiti and by Philippine diplomats, who have jurisdiction over Filipinos in Haiti, an impoverished nation of 9.7 million people in the Caribbean. FilCom and Philippine Embassy sources said at least 40 more Filipinos have arrived in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince since the embassy exposed the illegal deployment of 26 workers last year, many of whom remain jobless or are able to find only part-time work, and at rates much lower than the $2,000 to $3,000 managerial posts promised them by the recruiters. The workers are duped into coughing up as much as P500,000 in exchange for high-paying supervisory and managerial phantom jobs in factories and resorts. [. . .]
[Marieflor] Tuibeo said most of the new arrivals have avoided the old timers belonging to closely-knit Filipino community who were trying to reach out to the trafficking victims. “Very often, these OFWs are trying to avoid us because we ask them a lot of questions and they probably fear that we would report our findings to the consulate or the embassy,” Tuibeo said in Filipino. She said the FilCom has lost count because they just find out from fellow Filipinos about the fresh arrivals, who are being housed in groups by their recruiters and instructed not to speak with their fellow Filipinos who have been working legally in Haiti for years.
Ambassador Alfredo Maximo, charge d’affaires of the Philippine Embassy in Havana (Cuba), which has diplomatic jurisdiction over Filipinos in Haiti, said the recruiters are now deploying the OFWs by getting them tourist visas in nearby countries like the Bahamas. From there, they are given visas tourist visas, believed to be spurious, to get to Port-au-Prince.
“The recruiters have found a new way to deflect immigration scrutiny. They hide the true destination of the OFWs,” Maximo, who visited Port-au-Prince on May 15-22, said via email. “They bring them first to Nassau, Bahamas before sending them to Port-au-Prince, probably using fake stamped visas. Cuban immigration officials have found such fake visas in the past from OFWs who were coursed through Cuba by their recruiters.” The ambassador said the recruiters falsify the Bahamian visa, including the signature of the Bahamian Consul in Havana, adding that embassy officials have already met with Bahamian diplomats in Havana to warn them about the current modus operandi used by recruiters to bring in hapless OFWs to Haiti via Nassau.
“Take note that the Haitian government does not require visas for Filipinos in the Caribbean who want to travel to Haiti as tourists. This loophole is currently being used by illegal recruiters to bring in undocumented workers to Haiti,” Maximo explained. [. . .] Still, Maximo said majority of the trafficking victims have chosen to stay in Haiti, trying their luck to find the increasingly any hard-to-find job “because they have already spent so much to get there.”
More on trafficking of Filipinos (and photo of Philippines flag) at http://www.traffickingproject.org/2008/05/us-sees-progress-in-curbing-trafficking.html