MANILA, Philippines – Two minors were found to have been illegally recruited to work in the Middle East as household service workers, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) announced on Wednesday, September 25.
DOLE said it found a 14-year-old and a 17-year-old who were illegally deployed to work in Saudi Arabia as they were among the distressed and maltreated overseas Filipino workers who were repatriated back to the Philippines on Monday, September 23.
Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) Administrator Bernard Olalia said both minors were reportedly abused by their employers, with one supposedly made to become a sex slave.
Minors duped: Following an initial investigation, DOLE said the two minors were able to work abroad after recruitment agencies fabricated documents and acquired fake passports. (READ: Things to know about illegal recruitment in the Philippines)
Olalia said the two recruitment agencies were LGH International Services, which deployed the 17-year-old to Riyadh; and Side International Manpower Inc, which deployed the 14-year-old to Jeddah.
Olalia hit the two agencies, which were licensed to recruit Filipino workers.
“These two agencies clearly violated the POEA rules and guidelines for engaging in illegal recruitment and human trafficking that put the security and welfare of two minors at risks and under exploitative practices,” Olalia said.
What happens next? Following the incident, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said he ordered the immediate suspension of the two agencies. The two companies are currently facing administrative and criminal charges and the pending cancellation of their licenses.
Aside from this, DOLE said the two recruitment agencies are also facing a fine of P500,000 to P1 million.
Olalia gave assurances the POEA is closely coordinating with the Department of Foreign Affairs and other concerned agencies to investigate how the agencies acquired fake passports and documents. (WATCH: How OFWs can avoid illegal recruitment)
According to DOLE, the two minors have since been reunited with their families and will receive “reintegration assistance” from the government.
The Middle East remains to have the strongest demand for household service workers, with Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Qatar topping the list of destinations. – Rappler.com