New visa check on Bahrain-bound Filipinos
Manama, July 6, 2011
The Philippines government has ordered screening of its nationals bound for Bahrain on visit visas to keep a check on undocumented workers.
The move follows the Philippine Embassy alerting its Bureau of Immigration about the practice of many overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) travelling here on a visit visa, but later converting them to work visas once they find employers.
Filipino tourists coming to Bahrain will now be screened by immigration officers at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
Bureau commissioner Ricardo David Jr said in statement that he ordered airport immigration officials to conduct meticulous pre-departure inspections of Filipinos leaving for Bahrain.
He said that the move aims to prevent Filipino workers from poor families looking for better opportunities abroad from being victimised.
David Jr said illegal recruiters were 'disguising' their victims as tourists to avoid the ban on the departure of undocumented OFWs. Tight screening of Filipinos leaving the country was necessary to prevent human trafficking, illegal recruitment and even drug mules, he added.
The drive against human trafficking requires stricter screening of departing Filipino tourists, especially those bound for Europe and Middle East and countries known to be major OFWs destinations, said David Jr.
Embassy officials in Bahrain last year launched a mass repatriation programme to keep a check on undocumented workers or those without proper paperwork. More than 65 Filipinos, mostly domestic workers, were repatriated last year.
Our sister newspaper, the Gulf Daily News reported on January 25 that increasing number of Filipino workers were using shady recruitment agencies and other backdoor routes to secure jobs in Bahrain.
Embassy officials said many were duped into paying massive fees to agencies not licensed by the Philippines government to reach Bahrain.
It has been co-ordinating with the local immigration authorities to keep a check on undocumented workers.
Work and entry visas and employment contracts of Filipino women are also being verified by embassy officials. Based on government figures, about 45,000 Filipinos work in Bahrain.
In 2009, the embassy announced it would no longer process Affidavits of Support to their nationals inviting Filipinos on a tourist visa. This followed increasing cases of workers, especially females, coming in to work with these tourist visas and later classified as 'undocumented workers', according to the embassy.
It said the affidavits would only be issued to members of the applicant's immediate family such as spouse, children, parents, brothers and sisters.
The Philippines government lifted its ban on travel to Bahrain imposed during the unrest on July 5. The decision followed reports and a recommendation by the embassy that normalcy had returned to Bahrain. – TradeArabia News Service