'Gullible' Filipinos 'tricked' into working in Syria

Scores of "gullible" Filipinos are being tricked into going to work in Syria each month despite an official ban on travel to the violence-wracked country, the Philippine government said Tuesday.

The Filipinos, mostly women who go and work as maids, are being duped into working in Syria with false promises of high salaries and assurances that they will be safe, Labour Department spokesman Nicon Fameronag told AFP.

"They are illegally recruited. These are gullible people who are sweet-talked by the recruiters despite the repeated warnings of government," he said.

Fameronag said an average of 100 Filipinos were going into Syria each month, an estimate based on reports from the Philippines' labour attache in Damascus.

They were joining almost 7,000 Filipinos already there, a figure based on registrations with the embassy, he added.

The Philippine government banned Filipinos from working in Syria and ordered a mandatory evacuation of its nationals there in December, some 10 months after an uprising against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad broke out.

The Filipinos are mostly travelling through the country's maritime border to Malaysia and then making their way to the Middle East, Fameronag said.

"We suspect that there is connivance with Syrian recruiters," he added.

Over 1,500 Filipinos have already heeded a government order to return home, department records showed, but many have refused to come back, not wishing to lose their jobs in Syria, said Fameronag.

Nine million Filipinos, or about 10 percent of the population, work overseas many in low-skilled jobs such as maids and sailors, earning salaries much higher than they could get at home.

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