THE repatriation of undocumented overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) from Iraq suffered delays because some Iraqi employers refused to allow their workers to leave until they got a refund of the P500,000 that they paid to recruiters when they hired the Filipinos.
“There are some recruiters who were able to receive from employer $10,000 (or P500,000) and when they (OFWs) volunteered to come home, the employer won’t allow them until they pay the same amount,” Middle East Roy Cimatu told a hearing of the House committee on overseas workers last Tuesday.
Cimatu said that while Filipinos are barred from working in Iraq due to an existing employment ban, some still managed to get work by having their employers pay their recruiters.
The Philippine government has raised Alert Level 4 in Iraq and started repatriating its citizens amid escalating tensions between the US and the Arab country following a US airstrike that killed top Iranian general Qassem Solaimani early this month.
The first batch of 13 Filipinos arrived in Manila last week.
Nine of the workers came from Baghdad while four were from Erbil, located in the Kurdistan region of the country.
Cimatu said nine of the workers were stopped by Iraqi immigration last week even if they were already issued exit visas after their employers tried to stop them from leaving for alleged “breach of contract.”
“Sinamahan ng charge d’affaires, natulog sa detention center sa airport (Our charge d’affaires accompanied them overnight at the detention center in the airport),” he said.
“They stayed there and I would also like to commend the chargé d’affaires in Baghdad na sinamahan silang matulog mismo sa loob ng detention center ng airport (who accompanied the workers inside the detention center of the airport).”