The Philippines Starts Probing Human Trafficking Schemes in SE Asia

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Overseas Filipino workers arrive back in the country. Photo credit: Philstar

The Philippines Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) is now launching an official investigation into the trafficking of Filipino citizens to Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar to work for scam call centers. 

Philippine Embassies in the above-mentioned countries have also issued an advisory to warn Filipino workers about the risks of taking job offers overseas in so-called crypto techno parks in remote parts of Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar and listed helpline numbers for citizens to seek help.

Migrant Workers Secretary Susan “Toots” Ople said in a TV show that the workers are often approached online for these jobs as opposed to physically appearing for an interview. The hiring is done by syndicates that are well-versed in using online platforms and also removing any traces of evidence.

She said, “It’s online recruitment. It’s when you are at home. This is different from going outside and meeting an illegal recruiter. Here, it’s just one on one… whereas legitimate job offers are done inside the offices of licensed recruitment agencies.”

Many workers are forced to give up their phones, passports and don’t get paid what was promised to them. And some don’t even get paid a single cent, she informed.

Ms. Ople has appealed to Philippine citizens that if anyone is offering them seasonal work for six months with a salary of about PHP 40,000 (USD 716), citing vague roles like data encoders or in customer service relations, they just have to check with the DMW if their prospective employer is credible or not.

“We need an information and education campaign. Let’s not hide this in the darkness. The more we don’t talk about it, the more we try to downplay it, the more victims there will be,” she added.

Last week, at least 47 victims of human trafficking reached out to the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to request help for their repatriation.