They went to Ajman, United Arab Emirates to work as cleaners and office assistants in various schools. Suddenly, their employer left them with unpaid utility bills and two months of salaries. After bearing intense heat and absence of electricity and potable water for more than a month, the 46 Filipina workers ended up in jail.
By ANGEL L. TESORERO
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Forty-six Filipina migrant workers were rounded up by the police at their company accommodation, Oct. 7.
The 46 were part of the 84 contractual workers who have been earlier reported living without electricity and potable water on Villa 72, 159th Street in Ajman, an emirate 35 kms northeast of Dubai. The workers had been bearing intense heat that goes as high as 39°C for more than a month now. Their employer has vanished without paying the utility bills and two months of their salaries.
The migrant workers were roused from their sleep by female officers in abaya (local dress for females) and policemen directing flashlights and shouting at them. They were all sleeping in the front yard and on the roof top because it was too hot inside their rooms.
They were recruited by Al Farabi Manpower Service in Manila and employed by Dubai-based Lavito Building Cleaning Services as cleaners and office assistants in various schools in the UAE.
Filipino Community (FilCom) leaders in Dubai and the Northern Emirates, church leaders and concerned individuals took the cudgels of providing food and other provisions for the hapless OFWs. Filipino male doctors also gave free medical services to some migrant workers who were suffering from skin rashes.
But apparently, the neighbors were alerted that a lot of people particularly men were going to the place even at night bringing food, water and medical supplies, according to Philippine Labor Attache Amilbahar Amilasan.
The police, responding to calls from the neighbors, checked on the situation and found out that the Filipinas have expired visas and sent them to the Immigration and Detention Cell in Al Aweer, Dubai.
Amilasan said he immediately responded to the situation and sought the release of the migrant workers who filed a case against their employer in a Dubai court. The Dubai Department of Naturalisation and Residency released the OFWs to the custody of the Philippine Overseas Labour Office- Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (POLO-OWWA) late Thursday afternoon.
Menwhile, Migrante-UAE said the entire incident could have been prevented if only POLO-OWWA acted “prudently on the case and right away took custody of the victims as soon as their water and electricity were cut off.”
“We put the blame entirely on our inutile POLO-OWWA officers. We called their attention almost a month ago and asked them to house our kababayans at the POLO-OWWA Migrant Centre,” Yuri Cipriano, Migrante-UAE chairperson said.
“What is more appalling is that this happened on the eve of President Aquino’s 100 days in office. Isn’t it ironic that our government is not leading us (OFWs) to a straight path of economic recovery but to a jail of misery?” Cipriano added.
In an interview with GMANews.TV, Amilasan admitted they could not immediately accommodate the 84 workers from Ajman since the Centre in Abu Hail, Dubai is brimming with runaway domestic helpers and other abused OFWs.
“A case has already been filed in the courts and the workers initially opted to stay in their accommodation to seek out part time jobs,” Amilasan added.
Liza Concepcion, newly-elected chairperson of the Filipino Community in Dubai, agreed with Migrante-UAE. “The safety of our kababayans is of utmost importance. They should have been immediately transferred to the POLO-OWWA Centre,” she said.
Concepcion coordinated with a Filipino school in the UAE to arrange for the transportation of the 46 migrant workers from the jail to the POLO-OWWA Centre, since Amilasan told her that they do not have any budget for the transportation. (Bulatlat.com)