HIRING OF INDIANS, SRI LANKANS HALTED IN PALAU

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KOROR, Palau (August 25, 2001 - Palau Horizon/PINA Nius Online)---Palau has imposed an official ban on the hiring of Indian and Sri Lankan workers due to rising tensions and disputes with local employers.

Minister of Commerce and Trade Otoichi Besebes announced the ban after reports some local citizens continued to employ Indians and Sri Lankans despite an existing informal moratorium.

Besebes said the increase in the hiring of Indians and Sri Lankans had contributed to rising social tensions in this western Pacific country of 22,000 people.

Palau's Division of Labor has been receiving complaints from local employers and their south Asian workers involving "cultural confrontations, religious differences and unacceptable lifestyles."

Besebes said the order would be enforced until the national legislature passes a bill that would legalize the creation of proper recruitment agencies in Palau.

Meanwhile, the Philippines Embassy in Koror is expected to recommend a ban on Filipino farmers going to Palau to work. This follows increasing complaints of abuses.

The Philippines government has already banned the recruitment of Filipino maids in Palau.

Recently several farmers sought refuge with the embassy and filed labor complaints against their employers, whom they said did not pay them their salaries.

Philippines Consul General Julius Torres said: "The farmers are fodder for illegal recruiters."

He said some farmers are promised "good jobs" but once in Palau are asked to perform household tasks.

There are about 300 Filipinos working as farmers in Palau and most are undocumented, Torres said.

Most paid recruiters exorbitant placement and processing fees to get into Palau, which is the Pacific Islands country closest to the Philippines.

The embassy is trying to track down illegal recruiters and prevent them from continuing their activities.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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