DFA investigates staff for possible abuse of trafficking victims staying at embassy in Syria

AdChoiceTV News — The Department of Foreign Affairs on Monday started an investigation into certain personnel of the Philippine Embassy in Damascus for “poor treatment” Filipino trafficking victims while under temporary shelter.

This undated image shows the Philippine Embassy in Damascus, Syria.

This is in response to The Washington Post’s article titled “Sold into Syrian servitude, Filipina workers tell of abuse, rape and imprisonment.”

In a statement released Monday night, the DFA said it takes such allegations seriously.

Tomorrow I meet with the handful in the know to get to the bottom of this and what we know is its root in the human trade in Mindanao,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said in a tweet.

The DFA has deployed a human rights lawyer to further look into the allegations and to recommend other necessary actions to be taken.

The agency also said it has been providing legal assistance to Filipinos taking shelter in the embassy, most of whom are trafficking victims and facing penalties for illegally staying in Syria.

“The DFA, through the Philippine Embassy in Damascus and the Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs, has also been negotiation with the wards’ employers to secure the former’s exit visas,” the statement read.

According to The Washington Post report, many women who escaped from their employers’ homes fled to the Philippine Embassy in Damascus but “were not greeted with the sanctuary they had hoped for.”

The women described embassy personnel as strict, denying them breakfast for two weeks as a punishment for minor offenses, such as sneaking extra food from the kitchen, the report said.

The wards’ phones have also been confiscated to prevent them from complaining to their families about their condition at the embassy.

The DFA, on the other hand, said the wards can communicate with their families in the Philippines through their cellphones and through video conferences organized by the embassy.

“The Philippines will always seek to protect all Filipino migrant workers against all forms of exploitation and abuse, especially within the framework of the United Nations’ Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration,” the DFA said. — via Irvin Chua / AdChoiceTV News

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