Migrant group calls on the Department of Migrant Workers to take immediate action regarding victims of student visa scam

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A press conference was held regarding victims of large-scale illegal recruitment on July 30.

Organized by Unifil Migrante-HK, the online conference highlighted the number of overseas Filipino Workers who were victims of the student visa scheme by a visa agency and called on the Department of Migrant Workers to take action.

At least 50 OFWs working in Hong Kong have alleged that they were victims of the scam.

PinoyCare Visa Center is an agency headquartered in the Philippines and launched by Nina Mabatid, a former Cebu City Councillor.

Mabatid collaborated with Hong Kong-based Filipino vlogger, Bryan Calagui. She then came to Hong Kong to meet with those interested in living and working in Canada.

They organized their recruitment talks at the Sunbeam Theatre in North Point.

Mabatid and Calagui alleged that applying for a student visa was the easiest way to live in Canada. They also claimed household service workers can work while holding a student visa.

To secure a spot in the program, applicants needed to shell out HK$2,627 (18,500 Philippine pesos). Once secured, they also need to pay additional fees to process their applications, which could cost up to HK$17,329 (122,000 Philippine pesos).

The agency also promised to lend workers 1 million pesos to prove to the Canadian government of their intention to study there.

On the Canadian website under “Application to study in Canada – Study permits,” an application package needs to be completed.

According to one application form, “IMM 5458 E: Document Checklist – For a Study Permit,” a checklist of documents needs to be provided, which includes: a letter of acceptance, which is issued by the Canadian institution; if applying in the province of Quebec, a document given to the MIFI (Ministère de l’Immigration, de la Francisation et de l’Intégration) attestation of issuance of your “Québec Acceptance Certificate” (CAQ) letter.

In addition, proof of financial support whether the applicant desires to study in Canada for less than a year or more than a year.

International students wishing to work in Canada must be eligible for these requirements before working: enrolled at a DLI (proof that a school has accepted your application); proof that you have enough money to pay for your tuition fees, living expenses, and money for return transportation.

In the province of Quebec, most employers require some level of French to offer service to the majority of the population. But this depends on the type of work.

On June 18, the victims returned to Sunbeam Theatre where Mabatid was to demand a refund and called the police that same day to resolve the matter.

Mabatid claimed that she will return the money owed on June 25. However, the following week, she was a no-show. On June 22, victims went to the North Point police station to file a case against the agency.

Reports of similar recruitment events were also held overseas like in the Middle East and Japan. Mabatid plans to counter-sue the victims.

Dolores Balladares Pelaez, chairperson of United Filipinos in Hong Kong, said in the conference the victims deserve justice.