As many as 50 recruitment agencies based in Qatar have pledged to engage in “responsible recruitment and placement” of migrant workers, an official of the Philippine Overseas Labour Office (Polo) in Doha has said.

Labour attaché David Des T Dicang said the recruitment agencies signed a pledge of commitment during the culmination of two workshops held recently in Doha, in collaboration with the Shelter Me Project and Migrants-Rights Org.

The workshop, “Responsible Recruitment and Placement of Migrant Workers,” aimed to highlight recruitment agencies’ role in labour migration of domestic workers and how to improve their operations, he said.

In a report submitted to Philippine labour secretary Rosalinda D Baldoz, Dicang described the activity as “a high-point, first step” for Polo in Qatar, which espouses “responsible recruitment” among agencies and employers.

“Household service workers (HSWs) and cleaners are considered most vulnerable to abuses,” Dicang said, adding that the series of workshops is a “follow through” of Polo’s previous trainings conducted among stakeholders of the Department of Labour and Employment’s enhanced post-arrival orientation seminar.

“It is important that we not only orient our workers to thoroughly prepare them with the challenges they are likely to encounter during the period of work engagement, but more so, we need to change the mind set and ‘heart-set’ of recruitment agents, who are entrusted in handling the concerns of our workers.”

Dicang also said the workshops focused on raising credibility of recruitment agencies, which could lead to improved operations and more referrals from “satisfied clients.”

According to Migrants-Rights Org project executor, Farwin Fousdeen, surveys and discussions conducted by Shelter Me Project with HSWs revealed “some gaps” in the expectations of would-be employers and workers, “which later on may have resulted in early termination of contracts, and in most cases, abuse of workers.”

“Generally, the workshop showed that the main concerns of recruitment agencies are the sponsor’s lack of co-operation, and the worker, who was widely referred to as ‘returnee’ or ‘runaway,’” Dicang said.

The obstacles, according to Dicang, to a “smooth relationship” between employer and HSWs were identified as “lack of employers’ awareness (“education”) on the proper treatment of HSWs” and “the sponsorship system in the host country that strengthened the sponsor’s power over the worker.”

Other obstacles included “unmet expectations” of the sponsor, cultural differences, long working hours, language barriers, employers returning workers “without valid reason,” breach of contract by employer, and “lack of adherence” by the employer to minimum wage requirements.

Similarly, Dicang said the “lack of protection for workers in the host country,” workers who “take advantage” of the agency or employer’s kindness, absconding or “runaway workers,” homesickness, and the worker’s lack of understanding of her responsibility towards the recruitment agency were also among the hindrances identified.

Dicang said some best practices also surfaced during the workshops, including “consistent interaction” of the recruitment agency with the worker, post-placement problem solving, agent or agency’s intervention in changing HSW visas through skills upgrading “depending on the skills of the applicant so they won’t work as HSWs all their migrant life.”

Despite the challenges raised during the workshops, the 50 recruitment agencies pledged to “respect and protect the rights of migrant domestic workers from abusive and fraudulent practices during recruitment and placement process,” workers will not pay “recruiting fees or other payments in the course of securing employment,” and domestic workers will receive “comprehensive instructions” on their rights in Qatar in their native language.”

Also, domestic workers will be informed in writing and in their native languages, pertinent information like names, addresses, and contact numbers of the recruitment agency, help centres or shelters, and embassies of the worker’s country; and a guarantee that no wages are withheld in return for security, and cease working with recruitment agencies engaged in deception.

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