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Labatt warns OFWs anew against applying for domestic work in Russia

02 November 2017

Labatt says: 'Pera lang ninyo kailangan nila'
By Vir B. Lumicao

Labor Attache Jalilo dela Torre has issued a fresh warning to overseas Filipino workers to avoid being deceived into applying for domestic work in China.

He issued the warning on Oct. 26, in response to a post from Filipino Nanny Ltd., saying work visas are still being issued by Russia, despite claims to the contrary.

Responding directly to the post, Dela Torre said:  “Despite an official advisory from our Embassy in Moscowmagsisinungaling pa rin. Huwag na sanang palinlang at paloko sa mga taong ito. Pera lang ninyo kailangan nila,” he said on his Facebook page. (Despite an official advisory from our Embassy in Moscow, they still lie. Please do not allow yourselves to be deceived and fooled by these people. They are only after your money).

In its post the previous day, Filipino Nanny said: “Who said Russia doesn’t issue working visas anymore? Here are new invitations have arrived (sic)”.

What the agency did not mention is that working visas in Russia are issued only for skilled or professional jobs, and do not cover domestic work.

The agency's post was made just a few days after Dela Torre successfully thwarted an attempt by a Moscow-based couple to lure more OFWs to work in Russia.

The labor official, acting on a tip-off from some of the couple’s alleged victims, went online and warned OFWs about the arrival in Hong Kong of Kathleen Floresca Pimentel, alias Samantha Kaythe, to interview applicants on Oct 20-23.

Pimentel is said to be the live-in partner of Pakistani Jon Meer or Ahmed Sameer, who has reportedly recruited dozens of Filipinos into Russia with no real or legal jobs waiting for them there.

Pimentel flew back hastily to Moscow after being told by Meer that authorities here were hunting her down. On Oct 22 she was back in Moscow, OFWs there said.

Dela Torre shook unsettled illegal recruitment and human trafficking operators preying on OFWs when his warning whipped up multi-territorial action by POLOs in Hong Kong and London, as well as the Philippine embassy in Moscow against the menace.

“Forced labour and human trafficking. This is the business model of Jon Meer Ahmed Sameer, married to Kathleen Floresca Pimentel, who have together recruited hundreds of Filipinas from HK, Singapore, Dubai and Taiwan, and just practically left them on their own to look for a job and survive by their own wits,” Dela Torre said in an online post.

He said he hoped OFWs not just in Hong Kong but also in other places where the couple is known to recruit workers for Russia would be wise enough to avoid them.

“Let us use our common sense. Avoid illegal recruitment, human trafficking, forced labor and modern-day slavery,” the obviously irate labor official said.

Meer hit back hard at dela Torre, sending rude and vicious messages to his private number. Someone also managed to hack into Dela Torre’s viber account and replaced his name with “Scammer”.

He and Pimentel later tried to shore up their operation by posting a photo on Facebook on Oct 26 showing them in a meeting with Vice Consul Jeff Valdez at the Philippine Embassy  in Moscow. It was not clear, however, what the meeting was for, or when the picture was taken.
Image may contain: 8 people, people smiling, people sitting, people eating, table, food and indoor
Inside Meer's flat in Moscow. Pimentel on right
gets a good spread while the Filipino recruits
at the back can only look on
But the couple appears to have been spooked by the relentless campaign against them that they are reportedly planning to move to another flat to avoid arrest.

Their OFW victims complained about being overcharged, maltreated, sexually harassed and intimidated by Sameer, and verbally abused by Pimentel.

They said Sameer recruited them in Hong Kong, charging US$3,500 (HK$27,230) for an invitation alone, the document that the Russian consulate requires of visa applicants. Those who could not pay in full advanced US$2,000 to $2,500, and paid the balance in three months. Some arrived in Russia five years ago, and others just a few months ago.

Meer, in his own Facebook account, boasted of recruiting Hong Kong-based Filipinas for purported jobs in TurkeyCanada and the United States.

But in posts after posts, Labatt Dela Torre reiterated there is no legal work for domestic helpers in Russia even if they hold a work visa, because the visa that agencies provide is not for domestic work. Those who hold commercial or business visas are in a more difficult position because they have to renew them every three months, at great cost.

“Per our Embassy officials in Moscow, there is no way a Household Service Worker could ever be granted a work visa, under current Russian immigration rules. So, essentially, you will be working in Russia under the shadow of illegal and vulnerable work. Why risk your safety and your future?” he said in another post.

Even as the controversy brewed, more Filipinas from Hong Kong arrived in Moscow, with one flying into the Russian capital on Oct 20 and two others on Friday. Some chat participants said another batch of 28 OFWs is arriving in Moscow on Nov 3.

All were reportedly issued commercial visas and stayed in Meer’s flat while waiting for employers to pick them up. But Meer never got them the promised jobs and all had to go out on their own to find employers. Despite this, Meer insisted on being paid their “balance.”

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