OFW from war-torn Syria gets aid from DOLE

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/22 August) — The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) in Region 12 has provided livelihood assistance to a distressed Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) who recently returned home from conflict-torn Aleppo in Syria.

Sisinio Cano, DOLE Region 12 director, said Tuesday they released an initial livelihood grant worth P10,000 to former OFW Noraisa Dima to allow her to start a new life with her family.

He said DOLE-12’s National Reintegration Center for OFWs (NRCO) facilitated the release of the grant through its Balik Pinay, Balik Hanap-Buhay Program.

The 25 year-old Dima, who hails from Barangay Macasandag in Parang, Maguindanao, received a rice retailing package, he said.

Citing their records, he said Dima had decided to return home after working for about 10 years in Syria due to the continuing armed conflict there.

She started working as a household service worker in Damascus, Syria when she was 15 years-old through fake documents, he said.

Cano said Dima’s recruiter allegedly faked her birth records so she could get a passport and other travel documents.

She worked for seven years in Damascus and eventually transferred to Aleppo, where she stayed for three years.

“She was scared because of the unstable situation brought by the conflict there so she decided to return home,” he said.

The official said cases involving distressed OFWs like Dima’s are immediately attended to by the agency to help them return to normal lives.

He said DOLE established the NRCO and the Balik Pinay, Balik Hanap-Buhay Program for such purpose.

“The program assists returning OFWs who were displaced by the hostilities and conflicts in their host country, or those who were victims of illegal recruitment and trafficking,” Cano said.

He said it prioritizes distressed and displaced women household service workers deployed overseas.

A DOLE-12 briefer said an undocumented OFW refers to a worker who acquired a passport through fraud or misrepresentation; one who possesses expired visa or permits to stay; and, one who has no travel documents whatsoever; one who has valid but inappropriate visa.

OFWs whose employment contracts were not processed by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration are also deemed undocumented.

The agency said undocumented workers are vulnerable to maltreatment and abuses based on its records. (MindaNews)