'Pay $8k before you leave': Pinoys in Baghdad held by employer seek PH gov't help

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 09 2020 08:50 AM | Updated as of Jan 09 2020 09:25 AM

Pakistani women and children light candles in memory of Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in an airstrike near Baghdad, in Islamabad, Pakistan January 8, 2020. Saiyna Bashir, Reuters

Filipinos working in Baghdad are seeking help from the Philippine government after their employer asked them to pay $8,000 before they can join the mandatory repatriation from Iraq.

Filipino manicurist "Sunshine" said she and a group of undocumented Filipino workers in Baghdad are aware of the call for mandatory repatriation following the targeted killing of Gen. Qassem Soleimani by a US drone strike last week.

"We are near the airport. We know his vehicle exploded,” she told radio DZMM.

She said she sought permission from her employer to proceed to the Philippine Embassy but was told that she had to pay the amount spent to bring her to Baghdad.

"He told us to pay 8,000 dollars. That’s per head," Sunshine said.

“We’re also scared,” she said. “But that’s what happened.”

Sunshine admitted that they were undocumented workers and were direct hires of the company. She said there were around 60 Filipinos working for their employer.

Asked how they were able to reach Iraq when there was a travel ban in place, Sunshine implied that her employer probably used grease money to get them in.

During the radio program, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) Administrator Hans Cacdac told Sunshine that they will seek the assistance of the Department of Foreign Affairs so the Philippine Embassy can contact them.

But Sunshine said, “Wala po kaming tiwala sa staff ng Philippine Embassy sa Iraq (We do not trust the staff of the Philippine Embassy in Iraq).”

She insisted on talking to Cacdac in private.

"Lahat po kami takot sa employer namin. Kasi hindi namin alam anong kayang gawin pag nalaman na kami po ay lumapit (sa inyo)," she said.

(We are afraid of our employer. We do not know what he is capable of once he learns that we sought help.)

Cacdac said the Philippine government needs to investigate how the group was able to reach Baghdad despite the ban.

“There’s a possibility that more are being recruited right now. We need to stop that,” he said.

He told victims of human trafficking to contact or visit the embassy.

Overseas Filipino workers may reach the embassy at hotline numbers 07816066822, 07516167838, 07518764665 and 07508105240; via email through [email protected] or [email protected]; and its Facebook page