Saturday, July 21

Scrap the Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP)

On July 5,­ 25-year old Elenita “Beng-Beng” Pailanan died at York Central Hospital in Ontario, Canada after undergoing emergency surgery to remove her gall bladder.

Weeks before the operation, Pailanan, said Siklab-Ontario an advocacy group for Filipino migrants’ rights, was already experiencing recurring fevers, head and back pain, and shortness of breath. But she delayed going to the hospital for treatment until her illness became unbearable because she was not yet eligible for an Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP).

Under the Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP), she had to wait for three months and a valid work permit before getting OHIP coverage.

Siklab-Ontario said that because of this, the hospital administration asked Pailanan for a bond of $15,000, which was guaranteed by her employment agency, even before the operation was performed.

Pailanan arrived in Toronto April 17, 2007 on a working visa as a live-in caregiver. She was just on her third month in the host country when she died.

Denied government assistance

Pailanan, a native of Iloilo (about 465 kms. south of Manila), was the bread winner in her family. Her parents have requested that her body be immediately sent back to them but had no means to finance the repatriation.

Believing that she had benefits being an Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) member, Pailanan’s friends approached the Philippine Consulate for assistance in the repatriation of her body back to her family in Iloilo.

But, Siklab-Ontario said, instead of helping them, a Consular official allegedly told Pailanan’s friends to “fundraise” for the repatriation. The group said they were told by another Consulate official that the employment agency assumed responsibility for repatriating the body. But the latter has not acted on it up to now.

Under the Migrant Workers Act of 1995 or Republic Act 8042, “the repatriation of remains and transport of the personal belongings of a deceased worker and all costs attendant thereto shall be borne by the principal and/or local agency.”

“Technically, it is the government that deploys OFWs,” said Migrante International secretary-general Maita Santiago. “Paalis lang sila nang paalis ng mga Pilipino pero pag kailangan na ng tulong, wala na silang pakialam.” (The government keeps on sending Filipinos abroad but when the latter needs help, it doesn’t seem to care.)

Siklab Ontario has set up the Friends of Elenita Pailanan Committee that coordinates with Migrante Interntional in the Philippines to raise funds for the repatriation of the remains of Pailanan and to help the family with their expenses. The funds will go directly to the family in Iloilo.

Scrap LCP

Meanwhile, Siklab-Ontario called anew for the scrapping of the Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP) of the Citizenship and Immigration Canada, saying that “the violent and inhumane nature of this program leave Filipino live-in caregivers extremely vulnerable to abuse, violence, neglect and exploitation.”

“For a country that basks itself as a champion of human rights and women’s equality, Canada clearly fails to uphold the fundamental human rights of these women and instead facilitates their modern-day slavery,” said Yolyn Valenzuela, Siklab Canada vice chairperson.

The group said that Canada continues to recruit live-in caregivers, 96 percent of whom come from the Philippines, to provide care for children, people with disabilities and the elderly of middle and upper-class Canadian families; but it is “unwilling to care and provide necessary protection to this group of women and turns a blind eye to the numerous and worsening cases of abuse and neglect perpetuated by this program.”

Siklab Canada called for the removal of the mandatory live-in requirement of 24 months, the temporary immigration status and the employer-specific contract under the LCP. It said the situation of Filipino live-in caregivers will never improve because these conditions “provide the systemic context for their abuse and vulnerability.” It cited the criminalization of live-in caregivers, rape, de-skilling and forced prostitution as some of the harsh impacts of the program to the women, their families, and the community.

LINK: Bulatlat

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