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Violating Sanctions

An American Woman’s Listening Tour Through the Axis of Evil

Through the Porthole

The Author By Kelly Hayes-Raitt | February 8th, 2008 | Comments No Comments

“We’re not criminals, we’re seaman!” Alex Quinzo pounds his chest defiantly. When his tanker recently docked in Miami, he wasn’t allowed ashore, as seamen routinely are. Quinzo committed the crime of being from the Philippines, one of the countries on the U.S. Homeland Security’s terrorist list.

“For three days, I couldn’t go to shore because I had no U.S. visa. I could only look through the porthole.” We are standing in his hot boarding house in downtown Manila. Up to 20 seamen between jobs share a room overflowing with bunk beds, paying 2,400 pesos ($60)/month for a room with air conditioning, or 1,400 pesos ($35)/month without. pict0128_6.JPG

Every day, they go down to Luneta Park, where up to 2,000 seafarers vie for jobs in a permanent sidewalk employment market. Two hundred get hired. Seventy-nine agent-employers set up shop in rows of white-tented booths. Young men in crisp white polo shirts mill through the crowd displaying plastic covered xeroxes of job descriptions and salaries.

“They’re floating sweatshops,” says pastor Reynoldo Lopez, of the many cruise ships that hire the unseen workers who make cruises possible – and profitable.

A quarter of the world’s seafarers come from the Philippines; but, they may be allowed to see the U.S. only through a porthole.

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