Migrante joins hunt for embassy 'predators'

MANILA, Philippines - Migrante has joined the hunt for government officials involved in the alleged "sex-for-flight" scheme, where overseas workers are supposedly prostituted so they can get plane tickets going home. 

"We are urging OFWs victim of 'sex-for-flight' to get in touch with us, our Migrante officers in Saudi Arabia and other Mideast countries so that we can assist them in filing a formal complaint," said John Leonard Monterona, Migrante coordinator in the Middle East and Africa.

Migrante is a Filipino activist group that fights for the rights and welfare of overseas Filipino workers.

"We will also try to arrange with the concerned authorities their security and safety and to protect their real names and identity," Monterona added.

Following an exposé by Akbayan Rep Walden Bello, the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) are conducting investigations on alleged prostitution rings operated by government officials in the Middle East. 

Migrante International chairperson Garry Martinez said the abuses highlight the need to immediately repatriate distressed OFWs.

“The bottom line here is abusive embassy and consulate officials are taking advantage of the desperation of OFWs. The further exploitation of the exploited,” Martinez said in a separate statement. 

In a press release, Migrante detailed how the alleged scheme works in Saudi Arabia.

Here's the step-by-step description of Migrante:

1. The embassy and labor official normally will ask a runaway OFW at the Bahay Kalinga or Filipino Workers Resource Center (FWRC) if she has money to pay for her own airplane tickets, payment for penalties for being an absconder, and payment to her sponsor-employer who usually asks for a reimbursement of her deployment cost.

2. Seven out of 10 of the OFW wards would say they have no money. Then the official, who is an alleged member of the syndicate operating inside the PH embassy/labor offices in the Middle East, will discreetly talk to the OFW ward to offer an "indecent proposal" from a prospective "client" in exchange for cash.

3. In the evening, the OFW ward will be fetched by either the driver or any local-hire staff of embassy and labor officials who are part of the syndicate.

4. The amount, per information from the OFW ward as victims of "sex-for-flight" modus operandi, ranges from 500 rials to 1,000 rials. Some very desperate OFW wards are accepting as low as 100 to 300 rials. - Rappler.com