Sep 242014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2007/10/07DUBAI581.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07DUBAI581
2007-10-10 13:27
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL
Consulate Dubai

VZCZCXRO5637
PP RUEHDIR
DE RUEHDE #0581/01 2831327
ZNY CCCCC
P R 101327Z OCT 07
FM AMCONSUL DUBAI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY
INFO RUEHZM/GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL COLLECTIVE
RUEHML/AMEMBASSY MANILA
RUEHDE/AMCONSUL DUBAI
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 DUBAI 000581

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR G/TIP, INL, DRL, NEA/RA, NEA/ARP, L/DL

TAGS: PREL PHUM KCRM ELAB UN RP AE
SUBJECT: ACTING PHILIPPINE CG BRIEFS AMBASSADOR LAGON ON TRAFFICKING CONCERNS

REF: DUBAI 570

DUBAI 00000581 001.2 OF 002

¶1. (C) Summary: On September 25, Ambassador for Trafficking in
Persons Mark Lagon met with Philippine Acting Consul General
Vicente Bandillo and his staff at the Philippine Consulate
General in Dubai to discuss trafficking concerns. CG Bandillo
noted that easy access to UAE visitor visas compounds potential
for abuse, while changes in contract requirements have altered
the profile of Filipino labor in the UAE. Calvez suggested that
changing domestics’ living arrangements and jurisdiction over
regulation of household employees from the Ministry of Interior
to the Ministry of Labor would help alleviate many of the
existing concerns. While the recent UAE overstayer amnesty
program helped more than 3,000 Filipinos return home, the
Philippine officials said unscrupulous former employers used the
program as an opportunity to extort payments from absconded
workers. End summary.

¶2. (U) On September 25, Ambassador for Trafficking in Persons
Mark Lagon, the Consul General, G/TIP Reports Officer Gayatri
Patel and poleconoff notetaker met Bandillo, Philippine ConGen
Labor Attache Virginia Calvez and Consular Officer Rafael
Palencia, Jr. to discuss Philippine trafficking concerns.

¶3. (C) Only days into his Dubai posting, Bandillo was well
acquainted with the trend of Philippine nationals traveling to
the UAE on easily-obtained visitor visas (see refel). Often
unable to find legal sponsorship (and secure the corresponding
two-year work visa) and “desperate to make money”, many of these
Philippine nationals work illegally in the UAE and resort to
spending more than one month’s income every two to three months
to renew their visitor visa status. Palencia noted that illegal
workers are a high risk population for trafficking and other
human rights abuses.

Changing wages changes demand

—————————–

¶4. (SBU) Bandillo explained that, in an effort to curb abuses
against Filipinos working legally overseas, the Philippine
government reviews all overseas labor contracts. Responding to
concerns of domestic worker abuse, in March 2007 the Philippine
government began requiring job competency tests, as well as
language and cultural training prior to validation of UAE
employment contracts. Concurrently, the government also
mandated a new minimum wage for overseas household workers,
effectively doubling domestics’ salaries in the UAE (from 700
AED to 1400 AED, the equivalent of 190 USD to 381 USD, per
month). The resultant fifty percent decrease in the number of
Filipino household employees in the UAE has been offset by a
corresponding increase in demand for Filipino semi-skilled and
skilled workers, thus dramatically changing the profile of
Filipino labor in the UAE.

Household help most vulnerable

——————————

¶5. (SBU) Caldez argued that domestic employees are the most
vulnerable to exploitation, as they are expected to live within
the employer’s home and have limited external recourse. She
cited excessive work hours (with little or no breaks); lack of
food; and verbal, physical and sexual abuse as typical
complaints. She suggested two changes to current UAEG practice
that, if implemented, would alleviate many of the current
problems. The first change would be to allow domestics to live
outside of the employer’s home. Limiting proximity to the
employer would remove the employee from being on call 24 hours a
day, seven days a week, as well as decrease the window of
opportunity for sexual and physical assault.

¶6. (C) A second constructive change would be to transfer
jurisdiction over domestic employees from the Ministry of
Interior (MOI) to the Ministry of Labor. Caldez believes the
MOI is “more focused on the wrongs of the maids” and has
exhibited a pattern of bias in favor of employers. She
complained that when maids do seek help and lodge abuse charges
against their employers, the employers “always” counter charge
the victim with theft (or other) criminal charges.

Prosecute in labor, not criminal, courts

—————————————-

¶7. (C) Caldez opined that filing abuse complaints in labor
courts, versus criminal courts, would actually benefit the
victim by decreasing litigation expenses, because legal
representation is not required in labor court proceedings.

She also noted that while victims’ complaints quickly reach the

DUBAI 00000581 002.2 OF 002

public defenders office (usually within one week), 90% to 95% of
these complaints are referred on for lengthy criminal trials,
often lasting six months or longer. Since most victims are
caught in two criminal trials (one as complainant and one as
defendant, due to counter-charges by employers) they are not
allowed to leave the UAE until both trials are resolved. During
this time, the victim cannot work, (Note: The Philippine
Consulate maintains a shelter for domestic workers caught in
this cycle. Currently, the shelter is housing roughly 60 women.
End note.) According to Caldez, criminal lawyers representing
the victims typically charge substantial fees and retainers, but
perform at the bare minimum of competency, often not sharing
information, status or judgments with their clients.
Unfortunately, Caldez complained, “our nationals cannot afford
to pay for legal representation.”

Amnesty success and failure

—————————

¶8. (C) Bandillo used the recent UAE amnesty program for
overstayers as a case in point on how Federal law is implemented
unevenly. Under the program, illegal overstayers were given the
opportunity to adjust their visa status or depart the UAE.
During the amnesty’s June 2 to September 2 window, over 3,000
Philippine nationals took advantage of the program. However,
while the program provided guidelines on which workers would be
allowed to return immediately (and which ones would be banned
either for a set period of time or permanently from returning to
the UAE), according to Bandillo the actual decisions on return
bans “seemed arbitrary” with each adjudicating UAE official
“following his own rules.”

¶9. (SBU) In addition, many employers used the amnesty as an
opportunity to extort additional money from their former
employees. Since a worker who has been reported as “absconding”
(i.e., running away and working illegally on the black market)
from his employer faces a life-time ban on re-entry to the UAE,
according to Bandillo, some unscrupulous employers were
demanding payments ranging from 3000 to 7000 AED (817 to 1907
USD) to retract reports that amnesty candidates had “absconded.”

¶10. (U) This cable has been cleared by Ambassador Lagon.
SUTPHIN

   

 

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.