Filipino helpers in Hong Kong are being tricked with the promise of better-paying jobs in Russia, a senior Philippine official confirmed.
Citing data from the Philippine embassy in Moscow, the anonymous official told South China Morning Post that over 4,000 undocumented Filipinos are currently working in Russia. Most of them are former domestic helpers in Hong Kong.
According to the official, this trafficking of Filipinos from Hong Kong to Russia has been happening for seven years. Some are also trafficked to the country from Singapore and Taipei.
Meanwhile, others are being trafficked from Hong Kong to Brazil and Turkey, the official said.
For one, a Filipina helper identified as “Dang” told the Post that a local agent duped her into flying to Russia for a job that promised a bigger salary. She was then working in Hong Kong.
Dang, however, was only paid similarly and incurred debts as a result. Unfortunately, she is left with no other option at the moment.
“Even if I want to go back home to the Philippines or to Hong Kong, it’s impossible because we need first to pay all the debts [incurred] in applying to go to Russia,” Dang said.
“That’s why maybe it’s much better for me to stay and work illegally for a few more years until my children finish their studies [in the Philippines] and pay all our debts and save a little money that I can use when I go back home.”
Matt Friedman, CEO of the Mekong Club, a watchdog group that informs the public of human trafficking, said recruitment agents would lie about job offers suited to a victim’s preference.
“They would prey on vulnerable domestic helpers who might want more money or better jobs, for example as a social worker or teacher,” Friedman said.
“They were made to believe they could easily repay the debts from agency fees … and would eventually be held in a foreign country to repay them,” he added. “It’s the first time I’ve heard the Philippine consulate confirming the situation … which has been discussed in the NGO community for years.”
Jalilo Dela Torre of the Philippine consulate in Hong Kong echoed the situation and revealed that intermediaries earn 28,000 Hong Kong dollars to 43,000 Hong Kong dollars ($3,585-$5,506) in the bogus recruitment process. He said that victims often borrow from “financial institutions or even loan sharks.”
The alleged trafficking of Filipino domestic helpers came as the Philippine government suspended the processing of overseas employment certificates from Nov. 13 to Dec. 1. This ban, which aims to probe on anomalous recruitment schemes, may be extended as necessary.
Filipinos in Hong Kong gathered outside the Philippine consulate in Admiralty on Wednesday to demand payment for outbound workers by the labor export ban.
“Upon receipt of complaints, the Labour Department will [initiate] investigations promptly on suspected overcharging by employment agencies,” a Hong Kong government spokesman said.
Silvestre Bello III, secretary of the Department of Labor and Employment, said in press release:
“We are taking this important action in view of the persistent reports of illegal recruitment activities including direct hires, and in order to protect the public from the pernicious activities of certain unscrupulous individuals preying on our OFWs.”
However, excluded from the suspension are members of diplomatic corps, including royal families, as well as workers hired by international organizations and sea-based recruitment agencies, CNN Philippines reported.