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PCG warns anew vs Russian jobs as 20 deported

17 July 2017

By Vir B. Lumicao

Filipino workers in Hong Kong are again being warned against grabbing offers by illegal recruiters to place them for jobs in Russia.

The latest warning was issued by the Consulate on July 5, a week after the Philippine embassy in Moscow repatriated 20 OFWs who ended up as illegal migrants after their initial tourist or commercial visa there expired.

“We would like to remind the public … there is no visa category in Russia for (domestic workers); holders of tourist or commercial visa are not allowed to work (there), and improperly documented workers are subject to detention, fines and deportation,” the advisory said.

The Consulate urged the public to report illegal recruiters and illegal recruitment in Hong Kong through its email: hongkong.pcg@dfa.gov.ph or at telephone number 9155 4023.

A similar warning was issued by the Consulate at least twice in recent years, but the illegal recruitment of Filipino workers to Russia appears to have continued.

On June 28, the embassy in Moscow facilitated the repatriation of what it described as “the highest monthly figure so far” of OFWs deported by Russia.

The embassy said in a press release that the OFWs were forced to return home rather than stay in Russia illegally and risk arrest and heavy penalties.

Embassy officials helped the OFWs undergo deportation proceedings to obtain expulsion orders that
served as their exit visas.

Of the 20 repatriates, two had been arrested by police while the rest sought help from the embassy. They were given shelter and food by the embassy’s assistance to nationals section while their papers were being processed.

 “We understand that no OFW wants to go home abruptly, especially through deportation. The fact that our nationals came to the Embassy for assistance in this regard means that they were really left with no choice,” said Ambassador Carlos D. Sorreta.

The embassy estimates that there are between 5,000 and 10,000 Filipinos in Russia, the majority of whom are women who work as nannies and cleaners.

There is currently no work visa category for domestic workers in Russia and Filipinos. Those who go there for work obtain their visas through illegal recruiters who pay large fees to so-called “visa agencies” that misrepresent them as highly qualified professionals in managerial positions. Others go there as students or tourists.

Such arrangements have made the OFWs vulnerable to arrests, detention and fines, the embassy said.

It added that many Russia-based Filipinos are no longer able to obtain such work visas.

“We observed that the recruitment of Filipinos by unauthorized entities – especially from Hong Kong and other third countries – led to a situation where the number of work visas available for Filipinos, even the ones that misrepresent their actual work and employers, is no longer enough,” said Vice Consul Jeffrey A. Valdez.

He said working with visas sourced from the visa agencies is against Russian and Philippine laws.

“What makes things worse is that Filipinos are being recruited using tourist, commercial (business) and even student visas that do not allow a foreign national to work in Russia,” Ambassador Soretta said.

Soretta said while there is a demand for Filipino helpers, “we need to find a long-term solution that clearly defines their legal status for their own protection. The continuous entry of Filipinos in violation of immigration rules makes that task even more challenging.”

On May 28, Sorreta and Valdez met and held a dialogue with around 100 Filipino victims of a Russian visa agent who vanished with their money and passports, to discuss the options available to them under Philippine and Russian laws.

Russian authorities subsequently raided the office of the visa agent and has since detained several Filipinos, the embassy said. The other victims sought refuge in the embassy.

The embassy has recovered some of the passports and formally requested the Russian authorities to turn over any passports they still held.

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