By: InterAksyon.com, Feb 22, 2017
In a decision that marked victory for Filipino seafarers who worked for inland shipping in the Netherlands, a Rotterdam court ruled that officers of the employment agency Gyron Crew are guilty of human smuggling and fraud.
A fine of €65.000 was imposed against the company while 2 officers were meted with penalties of imprisonment of 5-15 months and 2 years probation.
The Dutch public prosecution service has filed an appeal of this decision, asking that the additional charge of human trafficking be reconsidered by the court.
While the Rotterdam court has dismissed the charges for human trafficking for lack of sufficient evidence, it has made a pronouncement that Gyron has taken advantage of the vulnerable positions of the seamen and the accused officers contributed to the unsuitable working conditions of the seafarers.
Gyron Crew recruited seafarers from the Philippines using two different employment contracts: one with a high salary in Euros and another with a much lower salary in US dollars. The contracts with the high salary were used to get work permits in the Netherlands.
In practice, the Filipinos would be paid the lower salary of a couple of hundred dollars, less than the statutory minimum wages in the Netherlands. In this way, several hundreds of Filipino crew members were put to work aboard Dutch inland navigation vessels in the period 2009 up to and including 2011.
In the opinion of the Dutch Public Prosecution Service the accused evaded the Dutch laws and regulations with the aim of making as much money as possible, at the expense of the Filipino seamen.
“Serious thought was given to the implementation of the criminal structure in several countries and how to execute this structure strictly and systematically. The purpose was to make the entire process blurry, and deceive the authorities and the seamen”, said the public prosecutors of the National Public Prosecutor’s Office.
The Dutch prosecutors will reiterate the charge for human trafficking in its appeal which comes with a demand for confiscation of 7 million Euros against Gyron.
Meanwhile, a charge for illegal recruitment is being tried in the Regional Trial Court of Manila against a local employee of Gyron Crew. The company is also facing a case for asset forfeiture in Manila.
According to the Dutch embassy in Manila, this case has opened the door for a stronger cooperation with the Philippines in fighting human trafficking and illegal recruitment.
“We continue to work with Philippine authorities and more international partners in making sure that each organization or individual recognizes a role in preventing more abuses in the future,” Charge’d’Affaires Jaco Beerends said.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II has emphasized that President Rodrigo Duterte has pronounced that fighting human trafficking and the protection of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) are top priorities of this government.
“This conviction sends a firm message that reprehensible acts committed by Gyron is not tolerated and future similar acts will be dealt with the same force of the law. It is likewise an indication of strong international collaboration between both governments.” Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) Executive Director Darlene Pajarito said.