By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – An overseas Filipino worker (OFW) who recently returned to the Philippines has made an urgent appeal to help rescue 20 other women OFWs in Saudi Arabia, some of whom are being treated as sex slaves by her former employer. She said several of the women have been raped.
In a press conference held Saturday at the office of Migrante International, Aliyah, not her real name, said she fears the abuses committed by her former employer, Abu Khalid, on the other women have not stopped.
“We demand that the Arroyo administration conduct an immediate rescue mission to save the 20 Filipinas who are still being held in the harem of Abu Khalid,” said Garry Martinez, chairman of Migrante. “The Philippine embassy in Saudi Arabia should also ensure that the Filipinas be brought to a hospital for medical treatment and that criminal cases be filed against Abu Khalid,” he said.
Aliyah said her employer tried to rape her. (Photo by Janess Ann J. Ellao / bulatlat.com)
Aliyah herself was nearly raped by Abu Khalid, she narrated at the press conference. She bewailed that she and the other women have to go through the ordeal because of the lack of employment back home.
Aliyah, 29, had worked for two years as a babysitter in Dubai. There, she witnessed and experienced how Filipino migrant workers endured hard work abroad to be able to send money to their families back home. Aliyah returned home three years ago and promised never to work abroad again.
But since then, Aliyah and her husband never found a stable source of income to sustain their needs. Even though they do not have children of their own, Aliyah was forced to provide support to her siblings since their father died many years ago.
In November last year, Aliyah heard about an enticing job offer from a friend who was applying as a domestic helper in Saudi Arabia. “Instead of paying a placement fee outright, the agency would deduct it from my first salary. I only had to pay for my medical check up and other miscellaneous fees amounting to P10,000,” Aliyah said.
Aliyah recounts the abuse she and other OFWs suffered. (Video by Janess Ann J. Ellao/ bulatlat.com)
Having little or no opportunity for employment here at home, Aliyah decided to try her luck again.
She applied as a babysitter. She and her sister completed their requirements late last year and signed the contract early this year. During the contract signing, Aliyah remembered that they were not given the opportunity by the AFT Company, a recruitment agency in Ermita, Manila, to read the provisions stipulated in the contract. “They told us that we would earn 800 riyals but we never saw what was written in the contract,” she said.
On the actual day of departure last May 20, her husband asked the staff of the agency for a copy of Aliyah’s contract. But he was given a blank contract. “No salary and employer’s name was stipulated,” she said, “We were only given a copy of the contract as we were approaching the check-in counter” at the airport.
Fortunately, upon arriving in Dammam, Saudi Arabia, they were told that they were going to get a salary of 800 riyals. But in the following few days, Aliyah’s misfortune began.
Instead of the babysitting job that she had applied for in the Philippines, Aliyah became an all-around domestic helper for the family of her employer. “My employer did not give me food nor water for two days and two nights,” she said, adding that she lost consciousness and was brought back to the agency the next day.
The Maqpoon Belahodood General Service Company, Aliyah’s recruitment agency in Dammam, then brought her to a hospital where she was treated and had the opportunity to rest for only five hours. Aliyah worked for the family for a total of only five days. She was not paid for it. Neither was she compensated for the health risks she endured after what her employer did to her.
Now unemployed, Aliyah had no choice but to stay at the recruitment agency owned and managed by Abu Khalid until the management found a new job for her.