(UPDATE) DOLE: OFWs still banned in 4 countries

The Department of Labor and Employment on Thursday reiterated the existing ban on the deployment of overseas Filipino workers in four countries due to political upheavals and peace and order problems.Labor Secretary Arturo Brion said a ban against the deployment of OFWs is still being enforced in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Nigeria.

Brion said the ban in Iraq has been in effect since 2004. The government ban in Lebanon was imposed in June 2007.

Reports said the government has also stopped the processing OFWs who intend to work in Nigeria and Afghanistan shortly before Christmas last year.

In December last year, a Filipino seaman died in an attack that also led to an oil tanker explosion in Nigeria.

“Iyung previous bans noon maiikli, ito ngayon complete ban talaga. At sa bawat pagbabawal umaasa kami sa assessment ng DFA [Department of Foreign Affairs] (The previous bans were short, now, it’s total. We’re also expecting an assessment from the DFA on each of the deployment ban),” Brion said.

The labor chief admitted that there are still recruiters who illegally send OFWs to the four countries mentioned despite the ban.

Reports, meanwhile, said that there are 20,000 documented workers in Lebanon and thousands more who are undocumented.

As for the other countries, Brion said that the government has no records to show.

“Wala naman tayong record ng mga iyun kasi wala na tayong embassy doon (We have no records because we have no embassies there,” he said.

The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), meanwhile, warned recruitment agencies against violating the deployment ban in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Nigeria.

It said that aside from revoking their recruitment licenses, agencies found violating the ban will be criminally charged.

The POEA said that OFW applicants affected by the deployment ban have a choice of applying as skilled workers in Canada, which has opened up 30,000 slots in the provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

The POEA said that the demand for skilled workers is in line with Canada‘s hosting of the Winter Olympics in 2010.

Among those in demand are nurses, health workers and mechanical and electrical engineers.