MANILA, Philippines — Five Filipino trafficking survivors from Syria were repatriated by the Department of Foreign Affairs and arrived back in the Philippines last Thursday.
The repatriates were illegally hired to work in Syria after arriving as tourists in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, DFA said in a statement released Friday night.
“The report we received indicated that they sought refuge at the Philippine Embassy in Damascus because of the abuses they received from their employers, not to mention the poor working conditions,” Undersecretary Sarah Lou Y. Arriola said.
The department also said it would be extending reintegration assistance to the five repatriates.
Another six trafficking survivors from Syria were repatriated in February this year. Three others returned home in April.
It was a Washington post report titled “Sold into Syrian servitude, Filipina workers tell of abuse, rape and imprisonment,” that first bared the plight of dozens of Filipino who women recruited to work in the United Arab Emirates but trafficked to Syria to serve as domestic workers without their consent.
The report details that the migrant workers were at times denied pay and suffered physical and sexual abuse at the hands of their employers.
Also per the story, 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.”
It recounted that victims 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.
In response to the report, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. on January 26 said he would repatriate all the distressed workers seeking shelter at the Philippine Embassy in Damascus.
He also ordered the DFA to launch an inquiry into embassy personnel for the “poor treatment” of the victims who were under their care.
“We are holding to account those who perpetrated the crime of trafficking-in-persons against our kababayan. We also guarantee that the survivors will be given due assistance in the filing and prosecution of criminal complaints,” Arriola said.
“The DFA is one with the government in listening to the voices of our [trafficking in persons] survivors. We are here to learn from their [experiences] and we recognize them as key actors in the whole-of-government fight against human trafficking.”
Reporting by Nadine Castro with a reports from Philstar