Philippines repatriates 55 women trafficked to Syria following abuse reports

Philippines repatriates 55 women trafficked to Syria following abuse reports
The Philippines has repatriated dozens of women who were reportedly trafficked into Syria to work for wealthy families under abusive conditions.
2 min read
09 July, 2021
Philippines' Secretary for Foreign Affairs Teodoro Locsin Jr said the abuses 'won't happen again' [Getty]

The Philippines has repatriated some 50 women who allege they were trafficked to the United Arab Emirates and then Syria and forced to work under abusive conditions.

The 55 women had fled to the country's embassy in Damascus, where they sheltered for nearly two years in the hope that they would be taken home, a report by The Washington Post in January found.

There were reports that the women were also mistreated at the shelter.

"I am emptying the shelters of all wards — no later than next flight out; sending a team to do it," said Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs Teodoro Locsin Jr on Twitter.

"It won’t happen again."

Locsin said that he would "wring the necks" of embassy staff, warning that "hell is coming."

The Philippine government removed the ambassador to Syria, Alex Lamadrid, and other embassy staff, according to local Philippine reports.

In March, the Philippine immigration bureau launched an investigation into allegations that some of its officers were involved in the trafficking of 44 women to work in Syria.

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A Senate inquiry into the human trafficking scheme has been told that women using tourist visas travelled from the Philippines to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates where they had been promised work.

They were "locked up inside a dark and dirty dormitory and were made to sleep on the floor", Senator Risa Hontiveros, who is spearheading the inquiry, said previously.

After their 30-day visas expired, they were reportedly forced to go to Damascus where they were sold to employers for as much as $10,000.

"Our immigration officers seem to be sending our women into slavery," Hontiveros said at the time.

Dozens fled to the Philippine embassy in the Syrian capital "due to harsh working conditions", the foreign ministry said last month.

At least 28 immigration officers were under investigation over their alleged involvement in the scheme, he said.

It is unclear how many Filipina women remain locked in indentured servitude in Syria.