Through tireless efforts, the Blas F. Ople Policy Center and the Philippines Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) Task Force on Trafficking of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), under a partnership with GFEMS, and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) of the Philippines, have achieved a landmark prosecution of eight traffickers. A conviction of the traffickers, who were responsible for the forced prostitution of two Filipina women, was handed down in Bahrain in April 2020.
The victims, two women who had been working in Dubai in 2018, were trafficked when they responded to the perpetrators’ fraudulent offer of better jobs in Bahrain. Upon their arrival in Bahrain, they were confined in a building and forced into commercial sex for several months before escaping.
On April 28, a Bahrain court sentenced each of the convicted trafficking offenders to seven years imprisonment and a fine of 5,000 dinars each, equivalent to USD $5,300. The convicted include five Filipina women and two Filipino men who recruited the women through fraudulent offers of legitimate work and oversaw their enslavement in an illegal brothel in Bahrain, as well as a Bahraini police officer who was complicit in the trafficking scheme.
The new IACAT Task Force, of which the DFA is an active member, established in early 2019 as part of the Blas F. Ople Center’s partnership with GFEMS, under a grant from the U.S. government, was instrumental in achieving the successful justice outcome through the use of a case conference approach. The IACAT Task Force secured strong evidence from the two victims which it shared with Bahrain, leading to the successful prosecution in the Gulf State. The two managed to escape the syndicate to return to the Philippines where they approached the Ople Center for legal assistance.
Key leaders in the response included the Department of Foreign Affairs’ Under Secretary for Overseas Workers, Ms. Sarah Arriola, who effectively used diplomatic channels in the absence of a formal Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty with Bahrain and Ausamah AlAbsi, Chairman of Bahrain’s National Committee to Combat Trafficking in Persons, and a 2018 TIP Report Hero, who led Bahrain’s cooperation.
GFEMS is proud to be a partner of the Blas F. Ople Center, led by OFW protection champion Susan Ople, and the member agencies of the IACAT Task Force on Trafficking of OFWs.
This article was funded in part by a grant from the United States Department of State. The opinions, findings and conclusions stated herein are those of the author[s] and do not necessarily reflect those of the United States Department of State.