This is the first posting in a two-section collection about alleged exploitation of Filipino migrant staff.
Hong Kong, China – The sizzling of chicken adobo – a sweet and savoury Filipino dish – fills the air of a significant-increase apartment in Doha.
It is Sunday, Andrea’s only day off, and she is planning dinner prior to another extended do the job 7 days commences.
Immediately after more than 5 yrs in the Qatari cash, Andrea* has very long been tired of her sales position and residing situations in the city, the place she shares a flat with 3 fellow Filipinos.
So when a buddy moved to Poland for get the job done final calendar year, Andrea seized the likelihood to implement with a recruitment agency that encourages mostly manufacturing facility positions in the European state.
But soon after transferring about 2,500 euros (US$2,700) to brokers, she is however to acquire her plane ticket.
“I am so stressed due to the fact of the significant amount of money of income I previously paid,” she instructed Al Jazeera. “I maintain thinking how I can get [it] again.”
Andrea is not by itself.
Al Jazeera interviewed 10 Filipino staff and observed written statements from 20 many others who declare they have been promised positions in Poland that by no means materialised, after slipping prey to a network of agencies and person brokers performing collectively throughout various international locations.
Irrespective of having paid thousands of dollars in expenses, they concern they will not at any time arrive at the European state.
Andrea stated she was informed her software would be accomplished in about six months and charge 3,500 euros ($3,820). But the last she heard from her Poland-primarily based company was that she required to spend an further 500 euros ($550) because her work allow had expired while she was waiting for a visa appointment with the Polish embassy.
“They are asking [for] just revenue and not processing the programs properly,” Andrea mentioned.
Much better rights, higher salaries
Filipino staff, the two in the Philippines and in popular migrant worker places these types of as Qatar and Hong Kong, are currently being drawn to Poland by means of a combination of word of mouth and social media accounts advertising and marketing work opportunities.
For many, the prospect of residing and doing the job in Europe would seem like a dream arrive real.
In the Philippines, tens of millions have struggled with soaring inflation and the lingering results of the COVID-19 pandemic, although numerous migrant employees in Gulf nations and elsewhere in Asia experience minimal salaries, weak conditions and meagre protections.
“Here in Qatar, even if I work for 50 several years, I won’t be equipped to grow to be a permanent resident,” Andrea stated.
Andrea does not feel she would at any time be authorized to convey her family from the Philippines to Qatar, which in 2018 became the to start with Gulf state to start granting foreign citizens everlasting residency, no make a difference how hard she operates or how long she stays.
As a substitute, she sees a manufacturing facility position in Poland as a ticket to bigger alternatives for her and her family members.
Filipino staff in a few various spots – Qatar, the Philippines and Hong Kong – informed Al Jazeera they had been led to feel they would uncover greater salaries in Poland, though they had been seldom educated would also confront noticeably better taxes.
Other touted benefits include the opportunity to bring one’s relatives to Poland, even with that not getting a clear-cut course of action for very low-money personnel, and entry to other European nations.
The quantity of Filipino workers in Poland has developed fast in modern decades.
Poland issued 22,557 work visas to Filipinos in 2022, in comparison to just 2,057 in 2018, in accordance to info from the Polish Ministry of Loved ones, Labour and Social Policy.
Among 2015 and 2022, Filipinos have been among the the top 5 speediest-growing teams to enrol in the country’s social insurance policy program.
A spokesman for Poland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported that “the need to have for Filipino staff in Poland is a mixture of a quantity of factors relevant to the dynamic expansion of the Polish economic system in new yrs as perfectly as demographic challenges”.
According to migrant workers and labour authorities, unscrupulous brokers are taking gain of the country’s increasing allure.
Most staff explained they had been questioned to make payments in 3 instalments.
The total amounts varied from about $3,500 to $5,000, effectively previously mentioned the lawful most volume in the Philippines. Poland prohibits employment organizations from charging placement charges outright.
Workers also documented concealed fees, a deficiency of frequent updates, and occasionally even verbal intimidation from agents.
Victoria* has shed all hope of a long term in Europe.
After her food items small business went bankrupt in the Philippines, she felt she experienced no selection but to go away her household nation.
Then, last calendar year, Victoria observed the Fb web page of an company that posted films and photographs of Filipino personnel who had taken work opportunities in Poland.
“They encouraged me to operate there,” she told Al Jazeera, recalling the very first on line exchanges with brokers.
Victoria claimed that Poland’s absence of language limitations and the prospect of becoming a long-lasting resident were being main draws.
“I want [my son] to be a health care provider. Which is why I want to go to Poland,” she reported.
Victoria claimed she despatched about 162,000 Philippine pesos ($2,880) by means of Western Union to recruiters with a Poland-based company.
But then they asked for an additional 1,500 euros ($1,635) as an “assurance fee” – a payment supposedly supposed to dissuade employees from abandoning their task in Poland, which is generally solicited on the knowledge it will be refunded soon after six months to a calendar year.
Victoria, a solitary mom who remortgaged her property and borrowed cash from an acquaintance to address her software, could not pay for the payment.
She reported she was mocked by the recruitment business after sharing her dire financial scenario and told there have been no refunds.
“Every day, I can not snooze,” Victoria mentioned, contacting for staff to be compensated and agents “to be punished”.
Victoria submitted issues with Filipino authorities versus the Polish company. To day, no one has been punished and she has not been given a refund or payment.
To repay her money owed and support her son, Victoria has considering that taken a job as a domestic worker in a Gulf nation.
‘Many victims do not come forward’
Al Jazeera saw Western Union and MoneyGram payments together with a number of bank transfers that ended up despatched to the personal accounts of Poland-based mostly agents.
Some of those accounts were being based abroad. The workers were not supplied with official receipts.
Many others stated they produced payments in hard cash to nearby organizations in Hong Kong, in some scenarios acquiring a paper receipt with the title of an company that does not maintain a licence in the city.
Paras Kalura, operations supervisor at Migrasia, a Hong Kong-primarily based social enterprise that has investigated issues from migrant employees in the city, told Al Jazeera that his crew was aware of the community, which has grown more than time “by incorporating new recruiters and agents” in various locations.
But its scope is likely to be significantly greater than it seems, Kalura stated, for the reason that “many victims… do not occur ahead, hoping for a potential deployment to Europe”.
Although extreme recruitment fees have been an problem for Filipino workers heading to different locations for a long time, Kalura claimed the quantities billed by this community were being “notably higher” when compared to other situations his team encountered.
Under Philippine legislation, it’s unlawful to directly recruit Filipino personnel though they are doing the job outside the house of their home place.
An overseas worker’s placement price must also not exceed the equal of 1 month’s wage, which will have to be specified in a agreement authorised by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, and it can only be collected just after all paperwork has been finished.
For domestic employees and seafarers, charges are prohibited.
The Philippines’ labour attache in Prague, Llewelyn Perez, mentioned the common monthly wage of a Filipino factory employee in Poland was about 4,200 zlotys ($1,050).
Perez, who is in charge of supporting staff in 6 European countries which includes Poland, explained she been given an preliminary established of 15 grievances from Filipino personnel in Hong Kong from a Poland-based agency named CIS Group Manpower.
Filipino authorities in Hong Kong stated that as of November the grievances from CIS Team Manpower and a area company related with the company had risen to 24.
“I built some suggestions to the Office of Migrant Workers with regard to the Fb webpage that is getting maintained” by the agency, Perez explained to Al Jazeera.
Over a lot more than 6 months, Al Jazeera monitored several social media accounts recruiting for work opportunities in Poland, acquiring that Fb and TikTok accounts with thousands of followers would be shut down only to reemerge shortly soon after underneath a distinctive name.
Perez said that she encouraged that authorities conduct an investigation, which could final result in businesses getting blacklisted by the Philippine Abroad Employment Administration.
CIS Group Manpower and its proprietor Imran Mehmood have been on the Philippines Section of Migrant Workers’ short term watchlist for companies considering that Could 2022.
Enterprises included on the watchlist, which serves as a caution to future staff members, are not allowed to recruit Filipino workers unless of course they secure clearance from the Department of Migrant Staff.
Perez mentioned she was mindful of other unaccredited companies recruiting Filipinos to function in Poland, but CIS Team Manpower, as of June, experienced the most issues from staff who had compensated charges but not attained the place.
Juliusz Gluski-Schimmer, a spokesman for Poland’s Chief Labour Inspectorate, advised Al Jazeera in November that it experienced carried out two inspections of CIS Team Manpower.
Right after “shortcomings” were discovered, the inspectorate issued an “improvement notice” with “four motions” that aimed “at ensuring compliance with the provisions in the long term,” Gluski-Schimmer claimed.
The recommendations had been targeted on “the legality of work of foreigners”, which includes the obligation to present a prepared agreement and give a translation “into a language understood by the foreigner.”
‘We stick to Polish law’
The operator of CIS Team Manpower, Mehmood, denied any wrongdoing by him or his agency, which has been certified in the country given that 2020, and mentioned he experienced cooperated with the Labour Inspectorate by providing it with all files it asked for past year.
“We comply with the Polish law,” he explained to Al Jazeera.
Mehmood reported his agency doesn’t demand anything at all to method workers’ visas or locate them a task, but that nonrefundable “consultancy fees” are billed to help personnel with various treatments.
He stated he has properly placed dozens of Filipino staff and that people complaining about protracted apps can request clarification from his agency.
He also noted that each and every scenario is different and that the method is not totally underneath its regulate as visa programs drop beneath the remit of the Polish authorities.
“We are doing our best to assist people and carry them to Poland,” he said.
Mehmood, who accused some workers of lying, mentioned his agency has been unfairly focused.
“We give contracts and receipts when we acquire the revenue in the firm account,” he claimed, alleging that some of his previous staff members took applicants’ cash.
Mehmood mentioned that companies in Poland have confronted troubles because Filipino personnel typically vanish upon arrival in the nation, instead of having the positions they had agreed to.
Two of Mehmood’s former workforce, who requested anonymity, denied stealing any dollars. They claimed agents had been instructed to overcharge personnel and obtain charges by using their personalized lender accounts.
Despite the fact that Mehmood confirmed that his agency has labored collectively with other businesses in locations such as Hong Kong, he did not disclose their unique money agreements and said he could not get responsibility for what they charge to their consumers.
Gluski-Schimmer, the spokesman for Poland’s Labour Inspectorate, explained the recruitment of migrant personnel from non-European countries by Polish work organizations collaborating with foreign entities normally will involve “complicated recruitment processes” that can be “impossible to confirm.”
“Such business mechanisms may perhaps provide to circumvent the provisions of the applicable law,” Gluski-Schimmer stated.
They may well also exploit “certain loopholes”, which can direct to “abuses” versus migrant personnel, he explained.
On the other hand, Gluski-Schimmer explained that introducing limits on Polish companies doing the job with entities based mostly overseas is not on the table, as it would not be doable to test “whether they are complied with”.
He said migrant employees really should be “cautious when dealing with companies furnishing labour intermediation services”.
A spokesman for the law enforcement in Poland would not verify or deny if the organizations or agents accused of wrongdoing by employees were being less than investigation.
Meanwhile, in Qatar, Andrea’s thoughts operates in circles. She keeps thinking about how considerably her software money could have served her family back again property.
“It’s a major regret,” she stated.
However, Andrea is keeping on to the hope that her software will eventually be finalised and she will just one day get a position in Poland.
“If there is a chance to live in Europe, I will go and provide my mother there,” she claimed.
This report was supported with funding from Journalismfund.eu. *Names have been changed to guard individuals’ privacy.