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KOROR, Palau (Palau Horizon, Mar. 26) - Rhinehart Silas, Deputy Head Of Mission of the Palau Embassy in the United States, has cautioned Palau citizens seeking jobs abroad to examine carefully their contracts or promissory notes before signing them.

The warning comes after 10 Palauan caregivers at the Senior Residential Care of America in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, complained of exploitation and unfair labor practices.

Silas admitted that the Palau embassy in the U.S. "lacks the necessary legal and administrative mechanisms to provide sound, helpful advice to its citizens, whether they be here in the U.S. or at home." He added that the embassy, due to limited resources, cannot provide them with these services.

"While there exists no certain government office to assist them with their contract or promissory note reviews, the embassy hopes the Office of the Attorney General may come into rescue," he said.

Silas said local businesses in Palau that assist foreign recruiting agencies have an obligation to ensure that there are no misleading terms in the employees’ contracts.

The Palauan caregivers claim that certain provisions in their employment contracts led to "debt bondage" and "involuntary servitude."

Of the 14 women who were employed at Senior Residential Care of America, 10 either resigned or were fired.

Silas assured Palauans that the embassy still maintains contact with the young women, "some of whom are in difficult financial and economic situations."

Silas said the embassy continues to monitor those who have chosen to remain working at Senior Residential Care of America.

The U.S. Department of Justice is said to be looking into the caregivers’ allegations.

March 27, 2003

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