Foreign affairs chief vows to bring home Pinoy human trafficking victims in Syria

Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 26 2021 06:32 PM

MANILA — Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. on Tuesday vowed to bring home Filipinos who are victims of human trafficking and are supposedly trapped in Syria. 

This, following a report that Filipina workers got abused, raped, and were imprisoned after being “sold into Syrian servitude.”

In a tweet, Locsin thanked Susan Ople, president of the Blas F. Ople Policy Center and a former labor undersecretary, for helping him address the matter following a meeting Tuesday afternoon.

“Thank you. Feel secure about this awful issue with you helping me. We’re on it. We’re taking them all home, all of them, and emptying the shelters of all wards,” Locsin said.

Ople, meanwhile, vouched for Vida Soraya, the Philippine Embassy in Damascus’ Chargé d'Affaires pursuing cases against the traffickers, saying that Soraya would need “a lot of help from the home office.”

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“You have a good person in Damascus. She just assumed her Post as CDA last December. Atty Vida Soraya is the name. She'll need a lot of help from the home office in pursuing these cases. There'll be a lot of heat from agencies there,” Ople told the foreign affairs secretary in a tweet.

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In a statement on Monday, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said it is already taking measures “to ensure the safety and well-being of Filipino victims of trafficking sheltered at the Filipino Workers Resource Center in the Philippine Embassy in Damascus. 

“Certain personnel have been administratively investigated and a human rights lawyer has been deployed to further look into the allegations of poor treatment of Filipino victims while under temporary shelter and to recommend other necessary actions to be taken,” the agency said. 

The DFA added it has also been negotiating with the wards’ employers to secure exit visas and obtain various clearances for them that are required by the Syrian government, such as payment of visa fees, residence visa penalty fees, social security clearance fees, and court fees.

It pointed out that the office has been providing legal assistance to the wards in the center, “all of whom are trafficking victims and face penalties for being in Syria illegally.”