Filipino workers accuse Pakistani diplomats of exploitation

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Flag of Pakistan and hand beneath
 Domestic work is among the biggest sources of employment in Pakistan’s informal economy. Keystone / Arshad Arbab

Six Filipino employees say they have been working for Pakistani diplomats in Geneva for more than 20 years without pay. They have filed a complaint with the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland after struggling to raise the issue with local authorities. This content was published on June 10, 2021 – 16:34June 10, 2021 – 16:34Keystone-SDA/dsSee in another language: 1

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“They left the Philippines because the Pakistani mission to the UN promised them a decent life in Geneva, with a salary, a roof over their heads and payment of social insurance,” Mirella Falco, head of the SIT workers union, told journalists in Geneva on Thursday.  

On arrival, the reality was quite different, Falco said. They had to accept to work more than ten hours a week without pay in exchange for a legitimation card (a special card that diplomats give to their employees and that is issued by the Swiss mission).  

To earn enough money to survive, they had to find work with other employers. 

Silenced 

“For decades, these domestic workers have been silenced by their fear of losing their residence status. If they are dismissed, they have two months to find another diplomatic employer. If not, they have no choice but to leave or go underground,” she explained. 

Some became ill as the coronavirus pandemic only aggravated their circumstances. They decided to come out of the shadows and testify openly on the RTS programme Mise au Point, taking the risk of confronting the diplomatic world and its privileges and not finding a job. 

“It’s really very difficult for me to have been fired. I worked very hard for half my life for the Pakistani mission. They know that,” one of them testified. 

Serious offences 

Through SIT, the employees have appealed to Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter and Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis. In their letter, they denounced the abuses they had suffered and asked Switzerland to protect them. The union is urging the authorities to take measures to end these practices, notably by strengthening the rules governing working conditions and residence permits in the diplomatic world. 

“These offences are extremely serious,” said lawyer Céline Moreau, who is defending two of the women and hopes that investigations will be conducted in response to the complaints. “They should not be underestimated: there is a suspicion of coercion, usury and even human trafficking.” 

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She emphasised the role of whistleblower played by these women and criticised cantonal authorities for ignoring the issue. “They are not doing this for themselves, but for others,” Moreau said.  

Other women were afraid to speak out, confirmed a representative of the Swiss Nanny Association, who slammed the Swiss mission for its lax controls. 

source Filipino workers accuse Pakistani diplomats of exploitation  – SWI swissinfo.ch

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