Philippine Labor Attache to Kuwait Cesar Chavez
Philippine Labor Attache to Kuwait Cesar Chavez

KUWAIT: Two Filipinos based in Kuwait could possibly face human trafficking accusations for allegedly facilitating illegal recruitment of mostly nurses from the Philippines. The two promised to deliver visit visas and jobs to their clients after they take the ministry exams in Kuwait, but months passed and no visit visas arrived. Several of these nurses went to the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) in Manila to lodge complaints against the Kuwait-based recruiter. The local recruitment agency, represented by two Filipino recruiters, also enticed and promised several Pinoy nurses working at private hospitals and clinics here Ministry of Health jobs in exchange of KD 2,500-KD 3,000, while nurses from Manila were asked to pay a placement fee of up to KD 5,500.

The two recruiters, Mia Gerardo Buenavidez and Gerry Brioso, were summoned by the Philippine Embassy in Kuwait, but only Brioso showed up. Philippine Labor Attache to Kuwait Cesar Chavez said the recruitment schemes are illegal and not permitted by POEA, besides the fact that there are no jobs available for Filipino nurses in the Ministry of Health.

Brioso argued there’s nothing wrong about the scheme because they have been conducting job recruitment activities as per Kuwait’s law. “But you are dealing with Filipinos and I am in charge of protecting our kababayans (countrymen). This system must stop immediately and I order my staff to withhold all your transactions with regards to the activities of your company with our countrymen,” responded Chavez.

In separate interview with Buenavides, she rejected claims that she was recruiting nurses for the ministry job. “I am not recruiting any nurses to work with the MoH,” she said. “We only perform operations as a recruitment agency for laborers going to another agency. Nothing else. We have other deployment. As for the rest, I don’t know about them.”

KD 5,500 fee
The scheme enticed Filipino applicants to use their facilities in exchange of a KD 5,500 placement fee or a down payment of at least KD 750. Many applied because the Ministry of Health (MoH) salary is traditionally higher than private companies. The recruitment company promised to facilitate Ministry of Health exams when they entered Kuwait. Those who pass the exams may apply and can work at the MoH, the recruiters promised.

According to Chavez, these processes are illegal and the mere promise of a job or getting a job after passing the exams are not being tolerated by the Philippine labor office. “The two recruiters are candidates for human trafficking and illegal recruitment because we do not allow our workers to be recruited from Manila without employment contracts,” Chavez explained.

“I already advised them to stop recruiting because complaints are now pouring in at the POEA. Although they are not officially filed at the POEA, this activity is illegal, so I urged them to stop,” he said. “I already suspended their documentation operations here until issues and concerns are addressed accordingly,” he told reporters.

Not permitted
The embassy told Kuwait Times that once the complaints reach the POEA, the embassy will have to file administrative or criminal charges against the agency. He said recruitment through visit visas is not permitted anyway. “There must be a reason or hope for a job at least. Kuwait is not a tourism hub but a business destination, so this local recruitment company is facilitating their applications and giving hope to applicants, They will arrive through hotel visas and take the exams. Again in the eyes of the Philippine government, this scheme is illegal – there is expectation of employment, so the labor department is against it. We have already called the attention of POEA over this scheme,” he said.

He called upon Filipino nurses not to be swayed by the illegal recruiter. “There are no job orders from the ministry of health, so do not believe there is a job waiting for you here when you apply for a visit visa. The salary of the Ministry of Health is very attractive, but if you are working somewhere else and if they promised something, do not be persuaded, do not resign, respect your contracts with other companies and do not enter into this transaction. From the start they operate in bad faith, so do not deal with illegal recruiters. Find a company affiliated with the POEA,” Chavez said. Brioso and Buenavidez are now being investigated by the POEA’s anti-illegal recruitment division in Manila. The Philippine Labor Office in Kuwait has also imposed documentary suspension against the two Pinoy recruiters.

By Ben Garcia