COVID-19 pandemic stopped human trafficking
MANILA – The COVID-19 pandemic proved beneficial to undocumented Filipino workers in Bahrain because part of the programs of the Kingdom of Bahrain was to grant amnesty to everyone.
Philippine Ambassador to Bahrain Alfonso Ver said from the onset of the pandemic until tomorrow, December 31st, “we can say there is no undocumented Filipino because of the amnesty.”
Speaking at the Virtual Presser hosted by Asst. Secretary Jayvee Arcena from the Philippine Embassy in Manama past midday Wednesday, Ambassador Ver said the undocumented workers will simply look for a sponsor.
This was his candid answer to the status of about 900 undocumented workers reported by the DFA as of December 31,2018.
“If there is someone willing to hire you, you can just change and get new employment and regularize your status,” the Philippine envoy said.
For those who consider returning to the Philippines, the government has been providing continuous repatriation including bringing home children of Filipinos with extraordinary circumstances since last year on the occasion of the 38th Anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
He added migrant workers receive free testing, free hospitalization and “everyone is entitled to free vaccination.”
Ambassador Ver said he has benefitted from the regular testing and most recently, the vaccination. He explained the benefits given everyone is another innovative way to regularize these undocumented workers.
“If we have around 50,000 workers here, that 900 (undocumented) is a very small number,” he hastened to add.
Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs Sarah Lou Y. Arriola said human trafficking has stopped due to stringent restrictions and procedures implemented by different governments.
“The pandemic effectively to a certain extent, stopped trafficking in persons because the lockdowns and the restrictions really made it very difficult for people to travel,” Undersecretary Arriola said. She added people cannot just go out of the country as tourists because of the pandemic. The pandemic made travel quite expensive and restrictive.
“in Bahrain, you have to have a Central Population Registry (CPR) number to get a vaccine,” Undersecretary Arriola added.
Meanwhile, Presidential Assistant on Foreign Affairs and Special Presidential Envoy to Bahrain Undersecretary Robert Eric Borje said the Philippine government is not just reactive. He highlighted the partnership the Philippines established with Bahrain because it involves Prevention, interdiction and prosecution, particularly of trafficking in persons.
“We’ve had eight people who were prosecuted for trafficking in persons and this sends a very strong signal to the international community as well as traffickers that both the Philippine Government and the Bahrain Government are working very closely are working very closely,” he explained
Undersecretary Borje said prevention, interdiction and prosecution remain the foundation of the country’s commitment through the Global Compact on Migration along with the commitment between the leaders of the Philippines and Bahrain.
The Philippine delegation is in Bahrain to look into the progress of the abolition of the kefala system or sponsorship which has been described as modern-day slavery. Bahrain is the second Middle Eastern country to abolish the system effective April 2017. (Melo M. Acuña)
Philippine Ambassador to Bahrain Alfonso A. Ver, Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs Sarah Lou Y. Arriola and Presidential Assistant on Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Robert Eric Borje addressing concerns from Manila and Foreign-based Media Practitioners in a Virtual Presser hosted by PCOO. (PCOO Photos)