Department of Migrant Workers

Consultancy firms fixing work visas sign of illegal recruitment – DMW

Michelle Abad

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Consultancy firms fixing work visas sign of illegal recruitment – DMW

CLOSED. The Department of Migrant Workers shuts down the operations of 11 Seas Immigrations Services in Pasay City on November 25, 2023.

Michelle Abad/Rappler

Authorities shut down a Pasay-based immigration consultancy firm offering work visa processing while also denying it is a recruitment agency

MANILA, Philippines – Immigration consultancy firms offering assistance in processing work visas in foreign countries are unlikely to be legitimate, Migrant Workers officer-in-charge Hans Cacdac said in a closure operation of an alleged illegal recruitment firm on Friday, November 24.

The Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) shut down the operations of 11 Seas Immigrations Services in Pasay City on Friday, alleging the consultancy firm charged large processing fees and illegally recruited Filipinos looking for work in Poland. They also did not have accreditation from the DMW to recruit workers.

There were several signs plastered outside 11 Seas’ office denying that they are a recruitment firm, but among their list of services is “overseas work permit visa” applications.

Kaduda-duda ‘yun kasi ‘yung pagkamit ng work visa, sa pamamagitan ng pagtanggap ng empleyo sa isang bansa ay iyan na ‘yung pinakamadaling proseso. Hindi kailangan ng tulong sino man yun,” said Cacdac.

(This is suspicious because acquiring a work visa for employment abroad is the easiest process. You wouldn’t need help from anyone.)

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‘NOT A RECRUITMENT AGENCY.’ A notice denying being a recruitment agency is taped onto a tarpaulin of the services of 11 Seas Immigrations Services outside their office in Pasay City.

The DMW received a complaint from the spouse of an aspiring overseas Filipino worker (OFW) over the delay in deployment after paying P150,000 of the P280,000 being asked of them to process documents.

This prompted the department to surveil the firm for two months, where they found that recruitment was indeed happening – jobs were offered to men mostly as bus drivers, and women were offered warehouse jobs, according to Geraldine Mendez, director of the DMW’s Migrant Workers Protection Bureau.

11 Seas made use of social media to advertise their job offerings, the DMW said.

Year-long scam

Rica, an applicant at 11 Seas who asked her real name be withheld, was surprised to see the media crowding around the agency that was processing what would have been her first job abroad.

She began consulting with 11 Seas in November 2022 after being referred by people she met at a training. She has since paid P140,000 for the processing of her documents and travel insurance for a job as a factory worker in Poland.

The 28-year-old mother of two took out a loan to pay the fees, reassured by the fact that she knew people who were already deployed to Poland by the agency.

Rica constantly followed up regarding her deployment, but the agency simply told her to wait. During the delay, the firm provided an opportunity for a two-day training for working in a meat processing factory. But when she received more documents detailing her supposed work, the job she was apparently heading to turned out to be an auto parts factory.

She only learned on Friday that the agency she was dealing with was accused of illegal recruitment.

Nabulag talaga kami… Sana po, tigilan na po nila yung panloloko nila. Kasi madami na po kami,” said Rica. (We were blinded… I hope they stop this scam. Because there are a lot of us [victims].)

Cacdac said that the department would track down the OFWs the firm already deployed and assist as necessary, as their working conditions and wages had not been vetted by the department.

Hindi namin na proseso ‘yung kontrata, hindi namin nasilip yung working conditions, yung pagkatotoo ng employer, hindi namin natingnan lahat yan… Kaya posibleng peke o kung totoo man ay kulang yung nilalaman ng kontrata,” said Cacdac.

(We did not process the contracts, we did not check the working conditions, the legitimacy of the employer – we didn’t check any of that… So it is possible that it may be fake, or if they are real, the contract could be lacking.)

The department is set to file an illegal recruitment case against the firm. They will also give the scammed would-be OFWs financial assistance, Cacdac said.

The closure of 11 Seas was the department’s fifth operation of the year. Immigration consultancy firms that are actually recruiting workers has been a trend in illegal recruitment of OFWs. – Rappler.com

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Michelle Abad

Michelle Abad is a multimedia reporter at Rappler. She covers overseas Filipinos, the rights of women and children, and local governments.