ERBIL, Iraq – The Kurdistan Regional Government of the Republic of Iraq has assured the Philippine Embassy it will help protect overseas Filipino workers by intensifying its own efforts to go after human trafficking syndicates that have victimized many migrant workers.
No less than Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Jalal Talabani gave the assurance after Philippine Embassy Chargé d’Affaires Elmer G. Cato thanked him for the important role played by the Kurdistan Regional Government in ensuring the successful rescue and repatriation of 10 Filipina trafficking victims in Erbil.
“We are one with you in the fight against human trafficking,” Deputy Prime Minister Talabani told Chargé d’Affaires Cato. “You can count on the full support and cooperation of the Kurdistan Regional Government in your efforts.”
During the meeting, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Labor and Social Affairs Mohammad Qadir informed Chargé d’Affaires Cato the regional government will be putting in place additional measures to better protect Filipino and other migrant workers.
“Once these measures are in place, Filipino workers will be better protected here in Kurdistan,” Deputy Prime Minister Talabani said.
In response, Chargé d’Affaires Cato said: “Protecting our nationals is of prime importance to the Philippine government. We look forward to continue working with the Kurdistan Regional Government on labor and migration issues that would mutually benefit our kababayans as well as their employers in Iraqi Kurdistan.”
In addition to the Deputy Prime Minister, Chargé d’Affaires Cato also expressed the Embassy’s appreciation for the successful rescue of the 10 trafficking victims in his separate meetings with Interior Minister Karim Sinjari, Foreign Relations Minister Falla Mustafa Bakir and Information Minister Safeen Muhsin Dizayee.
The 10 Filipina victims, who worked at a spa operated by a Lebanese national in Erbil, were rescued by the Embassy and the Ministry of Interior after three of the women escaped and reported that they were being subjected to exploitation and abuse. The Embassy had been monitoring the spa since July following the escape of two other Filipina employees.
The Ministry of Interior closed down the establishment, arrested the employer and filed charges against him in court. The victims were repatriated to Manila on Thursday with the assistance of the International Organization for Migration (IOM).