Our impact, their story

“Fly now, pay later”: One of the traps for migrant workers

How a Fair Recruitment Programme led by the ILO in the Philippines, Nepal, Jordan and Tunisia helps protect migrant workers against deceptive hiring practices and abusive working conditions, if not worse.

Feature | 03 March 2017
Ms Ria Cruz
MANILA, Philippines (ILO News) – Ria Cruz felt like a dog, or worse, a piece of meat sold from one employer to another.

Trapped in forced labour, the 28-year old migrant domestic worker toiled for almost 20 hours a day. After long hours of work, she was locked in a dark and filthy stock room. Her employer kept her passport and gave her leftover food.

As Ria recounted her experience working abroad, she could not help weeping.

“I suffered every day. Why am I treated like a dog or animal? All I ever wanted was to have a decent job and a good income to help my mother in the Philippines,” cried Ria.

It was not the first time for Ria to work in the Middle East. In 2012, a neighbour brought her to a recruiter. The salary offered was double than what she earned back home.

Ria agreed on a fly now, pay later deal to cover her recruitment fee, airfare and other expenses. However, the salary she received was only half of what was in the contract or less than US$200. Ria decided to go home after six months when her employer repeatedly slapped her.

All I ever wanted was to have a decent job and a good income to help my mother in the Philippines."

Ms Ria Cruz
Despite her experience, Ria again worked abroad in 2016 on a fly now, pay later deal, but with a different recruitment agency.

Taking on what she learned from the Pre-Departure Orientation Seminar (PDOS), Ria asked her employer if she could contact her relatives in the Philippines to inform them that she had arrived. Her employer suddenly locked her in a stock room and refused to give her passport.

Ria escaped and contacted her recruiter to help her, but was sold from one employer to another. Fear crept into her mind when she was locked in a building with other migrant workers and forced to work for several different employers in a single day. They were beaten whenever they disobeyed or refused to work.

Like Ria, there are 232 million international migrants who are mostly searching for decent work. The International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that 21 million people end up in conditions of forced labour and human trafficking.

“Ensuring fair recruitment is crucial to level the playing field and to protect migrant workers from abuses. Establishing fair recruitment corridors is important to prevent exploitation,” said Khalid Hassan, Director of the ILO Country Office for the Philippines.

The recruitment process is an essential path to reducing or preventing abuses, including deception on the contract and conditions of work, debt bondage due to high fees, retention of passports and illegal wage deduction.

Promoting fair migration

The ILO has launched the Integrated Programme on Fair Recruitment, also known as FAIR, to protect migrant workers from unfair and deceptive hiring practices. It will pilot interventions on fair recruitment in the Philippines, along with Nepal, Jordan and Tunisia.

Funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), the project will provide migrant workers with access to reliable information and services, and share global and national knowledge about recruitment and engagement with the media.

Ria knows that she could have avoided such a traumatic experience if she had had the right information before working abroad.

“The first time, I was not sure if the recruitment agency in the Philippines was legal or if it existed at all. When I made my second attempt to work overseas, I went to the office of the recruitment agency, but I don’t know if it was a legal or registered agency,” Ria admitted.

The two-year project will work with the government, workers’ and employers’ organizations, as well as partners from the media and civil society. It will develop a Migrant Recruitment Monitor (MRM) web-based global platform with the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), to flag recruitment concerns, and to guide migrant workers on the complaint mechanism. The project will also pilot a mobile-based app that will help connect migrant workers with organizations as a direct referral system.

Afraid and half-hearted about migrating again, Ria knows she has to take the risk for her family. “Given the chance, I’m still willing to work abroad for my mother. I know this is my second life, but I want to have a decent job. My dream is to get them out of poverty, or simply to eat three meals a day,” Ria concluded.

For more information, please contact

Minette Rimando, rimando@ilo.org
Communication Officer - ILO Country Office for the Philippines