An OFW Journalism Consortium news flash exclusive
by Jeremaiah M. Opiniano
MANILA—THE Philippine embassy in Baghdad said Filipino workers are not affected by the plan of the Iraqi government to deport illegal foreign workers
This is even if 2009 stock estimates on overseas Filipinos by the Commission on Filipinos Overseas show that there an estimated 2,800 irregular Filipino workers in Iraq.
Filipino volunteers in Baghdad told the embassy that the ruling to deport illegal foreign workers does not include Filipino workers in American military facilities there.
Attache Donnie Fetalino told the OFW Journalism Consortium that the overseas Filipino workers in Iraq are “in their duty stations carry badges with them which is respected by Iraqi authorities”.
“This is the reason why OFWs were not included in the news,” Fetalino said.
News about the deportation of illegal foreign workers in Iraq was reported in the Himalayan Times newspaper of Nepal, which said the Iraqi parliament passed a law banning the hiring of foreign workers.
“We are developing deporting mechanisms for illegal foreign workers,” Iraqi director general of labour office at Labour and Social Welfare Ministry Aziz Ibrahim was quoted as saying by Iraqi newspapers.
According to Aziz, thousands of illegal workers from Nepal, Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka and African countries will be forcefully deported after the mechanism is developed.
On the part of the Philippines, labor migration government agencies have issued a ban to deploy migrant workers in Iraq since 2004 (the last year that records of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration showed numbers of Filipinos deployed to Iraq).
But even previous years of reports by the OFW Journalism Consortium have documented reports of Filipinos going to Iraq through nearby Middle East countries, or are hired through labor brokers in those countries.
There are also 45 permanent migrants and 3,370 temporary migrant workers in Iraq apart from the 2,800 estimated irregular Filipino workers, according to CFO’s stock estimates as of 2009.
Reuters reported that thousands of foreign workers came to Iraq after the 2003 US invasion, hired as employees for foreign companies contracted by US forces. They are mostly working inside US military bases.
After the year 2007, private Iraqi employment agencies imported thousands more foreign workers.
But Iraqi officials are concerned over the 15 percent unemployment rate and 28 percent underemployment rate, and are now prioritizing giving employment to Iraqi citizens.
An initial response at the start of the year 2011 was Iraq’s halting of issuing visas for foreign workers.
Fetalino also shared a Feb. 20 communication between the Philippine and the US embassies in Baghdad showing that Iraq’s Ministry of Interior directed “a complete halt to all visa and residency visa issuances for an indeterminate period”.
“This applies to all foreigners, not just those involved in US government contracts Exit visas are still available,” Michael Dunkley Sr. of the US Embassy told Fetalino in an email correspondence.#