The Philippine Embassy in Bahrain encourages overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to ask their employers, who brought them to Bahrain using tourist visas, about the legality of their residencies. This campaign is part of the government’s continuous drive against exploitation of OFWs and stops the process of direct hiring.
“Filipino workers by law need to be hired by going through the proper channels, which include going through accredited recruitment agencies and their contracts verified at the embassy,” said Santos.
Labor Attaché in Bahrain Alejandro Santos urges OFWs to check their residential status with their sponsors and if in doubt, they should not hesitate to contact the Philippine Embassy.
The embassy reported that every year a number of OFWs come to Bahrain to look for jobs using visit visas which are issued by illegal recruiters and were asked to pay a large fee.
According to a 24-year-old waiter he is now being fined with BD600 by immigration authorities for overstaying in Bahrain. He arrived in Bahrain in April 2004 using visit visa and has been staying in the shelter since June. He paid her Bahrain-based Filipina recruiter with Php75,000 in cash and another Php2,000 extra in person for his visa, roundtrip ticket (Manila-Bahrain-Manila) and placement fee.
He also added that his recruiter promised him that he would have a job as a waiter in Bahrain but he found out that there’s no job waiting for him and that he had to look for a job and accommodation by himself.
“She promised to give me back some of the money as I will not use the ticket back to the Philippines, but she never did,” he said.
He was thankful that he brought some extra money so he was able to find a room for BD25 a month. Luckily, he was able to find a job as waiter in a restaurant in Manama.
“I worked for two years straight with no day off, earning BD180 a month,” he said.
“In May this year, I said I wanted to go home. It was then I found out that my passport never had a residency visa stamped on it, when I thought it was handled when I was employed by my boss at the coffee shop,” he added.
According to Labor Attaché Santos, the waiter has bought his own air ticket to Manila, costing BD125, so that he could go home, but he can't leave until his fine is paid.
“This is an example of what could happen to workers if they come here on tourist visas,” he said.
Visit visa holders have to look for jobs on their own. Some were able to find one while others were stuck for months, even years, as illegal workers.
He also proposed to the Philippine officials to question Filipinos going in Bahrain using visit visas and they should require OFWs entering in Bahrain to carry the original copies of their employment contracts and the required Pre-Departure Orientation Seminar certificates issued by the Philippines' Department of Labor and Employment.
There are more than 50 OFWs which the embassy provides with shelter. Some of them are housemaids, waitresses and restaurant workers who enter in Bahrain using visit visas.
“To be honest, for every Filipino worker we send home - three more workers come to us for help,” said embassy welfare officer Venus Bravo. “This is disheartening, because there are so many,” she added.
The study done by the Philippine Embassy show that direct hired OFWs received low salaries, have long working hours without overtime pay and heavy work loads, very poor accommodation and are often subjected to both physical and verbal abuses.
(Story from Gulf Daily News in Bahrain by Ms. Eunice del Rosario)