The Arroyo government is frantically working for an increase in the deployment of Filipino migrant workers in the Middle East to cushion the impact of the probable lay-offs and decrease in remittances of overseas Filipinos in the US and other counties hit hard by the financial crisis. But the Middle East, according to Migrante International is the “most distressing destination for overseas Filipino workers.
BY RONALYN OLEA
The Arroyo government is frantically working for an increase in the deployment of Filipino migrant workers in the Middle East to cushion the impact of the probable lay-offs and decrease in remittances of overseas Filipinos in the US and other counties hit hard by the financial crisis.
But organizations of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) stressed that the Middle East is now the “most distressing destination.”
According to Migrante-Middle East (ME), there were 939 incidents of migrants’ rights violations from January to May 2008.
Citing data from the December 2007 report of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Migrante-ME said that there are also 13 OFWs in the Middle East who are currently on death row, nine of which are in Saudi Arabia and four in Kuwait.
The group documented 100 cases of illegal recruitment or trafficking of OFWs. Seventy were deployed to Saudi Arabia, 11 to United Arab Emirates and 19 to Syria.
Migrante-ME said that 190 OFWs who ran away from their employers were arrested. They are currently languishing in jails of Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
In Kuwait, about 20 OFWs were detained in Khaitan Jail according to information given by seven OFWs released and deported last May 17. The seven worked for Al Jassim Trucking Company that provides transport services for United States military bases and facilities in Iraq.
John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-ME regional coordinator, said that the millions of unemployed Filipinos are desperately seeking to try their luck in the Middle East, the most distressing destinations of OFWs. “Many are forced to accept deployment even in war-torn countries in the Middle East like Iraq and Lebanon.”
Last August, Migrante’s Rights and Welfare Assistance Committee (RWAC) documented 595 stranded OFWs from Saudi Arabia. The number only represents those who have sought assistance from the Migrante chapter in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Two hundred more cases were documented from other parts of Saudi Arabia like Riyadh, Al Khobar, Dammam, Hail and Al Jouf .
In Jordan, there are 170 stranded women OFWs who eventually sought refuge at the Philippine Embassy’s Filipino Workers Resource Center (FWRC).
Eleven nursing aides working for Al-Easa Home Care in Kuwait were terminated just because they demanded for what is stipulated in their work contract.
Dolores Balladares, spokesperson of the Asian Migrants Coordinating Body (AMCB), said that the upcoming Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) will only be “a mockery of the rights of migrants” as Middle East countries and other host countries that neglect the rights of their nationals abroad will be attending. “While the GFMD professes to talk about rights of migrants, thousands of migrants are subjected to grave rights abuses. When will the Philippine government and the GFMD adherents stop their hypocrisy and act concretely to address our problems?”
The AMCB said, “The Middle East is the epicenter of migrants’ rights violations.” Members of AMCB held a picket last week in front of the Saudi Arabian consulate in Hong Kong.
Balladares condemned the “gross violation of human and labor rights of migrant workers” in the Middle East especially those in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
The GCC is composed of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.