Filipinos charged $10,000 to flee Syria

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Jul 17 2012 07:28 PM | Updated as of Jul 18 2012 08:57 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Filipino workers trying to flee the unrest in Syria are being charged up to $10,000 by their employers before they can leave, the foreign department in Manila said on Tuesday.

Syrian employers are demanding that they be refunded large amounts they paid for the deployment of Philippine staff, foreign department spokesman Raul Hernandez told reporters.

"The problem now is the employers are asking more money for the refund of the deployment cost. Before it was only $4,000 per worker and now it's even reaching up to $10,000 dollars," he said.

Hernandez said the embassy often had to negotiate with the employers to accept a lower amount because the workers could not afford to pay that much.

Another problem is that Filipino workers are continuing to arrive, brought in by illegal labour recruiters in Syria, despite the violence plaguing the country, he said.

He warned people not to be "duped" by offers of high-paying jobs.

The Philippines has already repatriated over 1,800 Filipinos from Syria but is still processing the papers for more than 1,000 others, Hernandez said.

The increasing violence was making it harder to get them out, he said, as he appealed to all Filipinos in Syria to go to the embassy and seek help to be repatriated.

In June, the government estimated that there were 7,000 Filipinos in Syria, many of them working as domestic helpers.

The Philippine government banned Filipinos from working in Syria and ordered a mandatory evacuation of its nationals there in December, some 10 months after an uprising against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad broke out.

About nine million Filipinos work around the world, earning more money in a wide range of skilled and unskilled jobs abroad than they could in their impoverished homeland.