Latest modern slavery fight updates -

Filipino domestic workers trafficked from UAE to Syria

  • Published on
    January 28, 2021
  • News Source Image
  • Category:
    Domestic Slavery
Hero Banner

Dozens of Filipina domestic workers who were recruited to work in the United Arab Emirates have been trafficked to Syria, subjected to physical and sexual abuse and denied their salaries by their employers.

One such domestic worker is Josephine Tawaging, who arrived in Dubai but was locked in a crowded, dirty dormitory by her recruitment agency. When the agents informed her that she would be taken to Syria, she protested only to be slapped across the face.

“They got angry with me and said, ‘If you don’t go, we’ll kill you.'” She remains trapped in Syria today.

In a series of interviews conducted by the Washington Post with Filipina domestic workers trafficked to Syria, reporters learned that many have have imprisoned in their employers homes. Those who fled have managed to seek shelter at the Philippine Embassy in Damascus, but are still unable to fly home.

“My employer slapped me and put my head into the wall. I escaped because he did not give me a salary for nine months,” said Flordeliza Arejola, 32, who has been in Syria since 2018. “I waited until he was asleep and climbed over the wall. I had some money for a taxi [to the embassy].

Tens of millions of international migrants live in Persian Gulf countries like the UAE, many employed in sectors such as construction and hospitality or as domestic workers. Their cheap labor sustains the economies of the Arab region, while their remittances are often vital to supporting families back home.

Syria, after nearly a decade of civil war, is a far less desirable destination for migrant workers, but affluent Syrian families are prepared to pay thousands of dollars to obtain a maid. This has fueled demand for trafficked female migrants.

Upon arrival in Syria, the women recounted how they were lined up for prospective employers, who paid between $8,000-$10,000 for them.

“I was told to be good, so I won’t get raped and hurt. I stayed quiet and just said yes,” said Joymalyn Dy.

When asked about trafficking to Syria, Paul Raymund Cortes, the Philippines’ consul general in Dubai, commented that “Of course we are very concerned about their plight,” adding that workers should seek help from Philippines government agencies.

However, the women seeking shelter at the embassy say they’ve been far from welcomed. If they sneak food from the kitchen they are punished with no breakfast for two weeks. To prevent them from complaining to their families, the embassy staff confiscated their phones. They are all locked inside the shelter at night, with one 48-year-old woman saying “It’s like being in prison.”

In response, the Philippine Department of of Foreign Affairs said it had launched an “investigation into allegations of poor treatment while under temporary shelter and recommend the necessary actions accordingly.”

Sign the petition calling for governments to ratify the international standard to protect domestic workers.


Freedom United is interested in hearing from our community and welcomes relevant, informed comments, advice, and insights that advance the conversation around our campaigns and advocacy. We value inclusivity and respect within our community. To be approved, your comments should be civil.

stop icon A few things we do not tolerate: comments that promote discrimination, prejudice, racism, or xenophobia, as well as personal attacks or profanity. We screen submissions in order to create a space where the entire Freedom United community feels safe to express and exchange thoughtful opinions.

Notify of
1 Comment
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Nabakooza cissy
Nabakooza cissy
3 months ago

Am in Damascus working as a domestic work I lost my baby was 5 years old on 20/2/2024 I told my office to allow me go attend the burial the office told my family to first pay them $5000 to allow me go but since then am not okay my body is very weak carrying gas cylinders from outside the gate to the third floor am working under pressure my family was calling the office, and the office told me he is going to bring me police I must work 3years by force but am not feeling well physically am… Read more »

This week

From Ecuador's fields to global supply chains: Freedom United tackles modern slavery

As hundreds of Ecuadorian workers await a verdict in a milestone modern slavery case, Freedom United's Executive Director, Joanna Ewart-James, sat down with German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle News to explain modern slavery in supply chains and everyday products. Chances are you've used a forced labor product The Deutsche Welle report follows landmark rulings on cases of exploitation in Ecuador at Furukawa Plantaciones C.A., a Japanese company that

| Thursday June 20, 2024

Read more