THE Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) is bracing for the expected rise in the number of distressed overseas Filipino workers (OFW) with the reopening of more destination countries by beefing up its anti-illegal recruitment drive and reintegration programs.
At the book launch event organized by the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women and the Blas F. Ople Policy Center on Wednesday, DMW Assistant Secretary Francis Ron C. de Guzman disclosed they observed the number of distressed OFWs have started to rise this year.
“There were more [cases] due to the improved monitoring [by authorities] and open borders. During the pandemic, very few [OFWs] were able to leave. Now as more country of destination reopen, the possibility of the victims increasing is there,” De Guzman said.
As of July, DMW registered 109 OFWs in distressed situation from Myanmar, Thailand, South Korea, Cambodia, Laos, Syria and Malaysia.
Of these, 64 are female and 45 are male.
De Guzman said most victims from Southeast Asian countries were recruited by Chinese syndicates for illegal gambling, while those from the Middle East were usually household service workers (HSW) who became victims of third-country recruitment.
Those from South Korea were seasonal farm workers deployed by local government units (LGU) and were abused by their employers.
“Together with the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) and the post in Korea, we have also sent a team to conduct an investigation onsite to further assist workers and to check on their conditions,” De Guzman said.
“The DMW assisted workers in filing cases with the DOJ (Department of Justice),” he added.
DMW also registered victims of sexual exploitation and abuse in some countries.
To prevent other OFWs from suffering similar fates, DMW together with other members of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking has intensified its onsite information drive against illegal recruitment “backdoor corridors” like southern Palawan and Zamboanga.
De Guzman said DMW is currently establishing more regional offices for the same purpose.
He said they also coordinated with Facebook and TikTok for their online campaign since many OFWs still fall prey to illegal recruitment online.
“We are also working with DICT (Department of Information and Communication Technology), in particular its CICC (Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center), to enhance our drive to [fight] other forms of IR (illegal recruitment) and trafficking online,” De Guzman said.
The DMW official said they are ready to provide assistance to distressed OFWs to help in their reintegration.
The interventions include the repatriation cost of the OFW, a P10,000-arrival assistance from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), hotel accommodations, and a P30,000 financial aid from DMW.
De Guzman said the victims are also given psychosocial support and counselling since many of them went through a harrowing experience such as being electrocuted or sexually assaulted.
“We hope to do better because as I have said, it is hard [for OFWs] to return to the Philippines under a normal situation, it is much more difficult for them if they were to it [by their situation],” he said.
Image credits: Nonoy Lacza