R.I. court rules Filipina victim of human trafficking is entitled to damages

A Rhode Island federal judge has ordered default against an Emirati colonel in a human trafficking civil suit. The decision paves the way for the award of compensation to Elizabeth Cabitla Ballesteros, according to a statement from the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) which provided legal assistance to the Filipina domestic worker.

In April 2011, Ballesteros filed a civil action against Colonel Arif Mohamed Saeed Mohamed Al-Ali, a former student at the U.S. Naval War College’s International Program from the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.), for violating federal laws against human trafficking.

“Ms. Ballesteros has shown tremendous courage in taking a stand against the involuntary servitude to which she was subjected,” said attorney Ivy Suriyopas, who leads AALDEF’s Anti-Trafficking Initiative. “She and the countless other domestic workers who are human trafficking survivors in the United States deserve justice.”

Ballesteros worked as one of the domestic workers for the Col. Al-Ali, his wife Samah Alharmoodi, and their five children for several years in the U.A.E. before they asked her to provide child care for their younger children in the United States. She arrived in Rhode Island in 2010 with a written contract to work five days a week and receive her pay in U.S. dollars.
Instead, Col. Al-Ali subjected her for three months to involuntary servitude, forced labor, peonage, debt bondage, and slavery as a domestic worker in their home, according to the AALDEF statement.

“He did not allow her a single day off work, forbade her from speaking to anyone outside the household, withheld her passport, and sent only occasional wages in dirham currency to her family in the Philippines,” it said. Ultimately Ballesteros was able to escape and obtain representation from AALDEF’s Anti-Trafficking Initiative.

In 2011, Col. Al-Ali was arraigned by federal prosecutors for one count of committing fraud in foreign labor contracting and one count of making false representations to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. He was arrested at JFK airport in New York City as he attempted to leave the United States with his family following his release on his own recognizance.

While he was acquitted of the criminal charges in August 2011, the court allowed the civil suit to resume in October. In early 2012 his attorney moved to withdraw, and Col. Al-Ali has not appeared to defend himself in court. After he failed to appear at an August 8 hearing, U.S. District Judge McConnell ordered default on all counts after Ballesteros made an oral motion. The court may now schedule a hearing on damages to which Ballesteros is entitled.



One Comment

  1. M. Matthews wrote:

    This is to inform you of the following: Filipinos workers especially women, are being in slaved by thousands in Arab and Muslim nations. The Filipino Government know all about it. Rich Arab diplomats and military attaches can do what they want to do to in slave Filipinos women and other women from poor nations working for them. This is a factual facts that the Filipino press/media have kept under cover.

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