Migrante opens Crisis Hotline for OFWs in Qatar
Global alliance of overseas Filipinos Migrante International today called on the Duterte administration to reveal in concrete terms its contingency measures for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and their families in light of the escalating crisis in Qatar.
“We initially welcomed the DOLE’s announcement of a deployment ban as a prompt precautionary measure, we are not too keen with the partial lifting of the said ban, however, within less than 24 hours. Why keep sending our Filipinos to Qatar when the situation there is obviously still unstable? Yet, as before, our OFWs are forced to choose between a potentially risky situation over definite joblessness here in the country, and the government can offer them nothing in return but the hasty partial lifting of the ban,” said Arman Hernando, Migrante International spokesperson.
Hernando said that the DOLE and the DFA should have first disclosed to concerned OFWs and their families the government’s concrete steps in ensuring the well-being and protection of at least 270,000 Filipinos in Qatar.
“We have been receiving reports from our Qatar chapter. Filipinos are at a loss. Saan sila tatakbo kung sakaling lumala ang sitwasyon? The embassy has set up hotlines but many of Filipinos are located in far-flung camps or are working as household service workers, without access or means to reach PH posts. Hundreds are stranded in camps, their wages withheld since January of this year, awaiting resolution of their labor disputes. What of the kafala system?” Hernando said.
The kafala or sponsorship system is an immigration and labor system that binds an OFW to their sponsor or employer, whose written consent is required should they opt to leave the country. Employers often abuse this power to confiscate passports, withhold wages and force migrant workers into slave-like conditions.
“With the escalating situation in Qatar, a simple declaration from the DOLE that they are ‘prepared’ for emergency repatriation will not suffice. We call on the government to not repeat the mistakes of previous administrations and instead prepare for active intervention to locate, secure and ensure the safe exit of Filipinos from potential conflict areas. Apart from sweeping announcements, there remains no clear blueprint from the government on how it plans to effect emergency repatriation if or when it ever takes place,” Hernando said.
He cited previous experiences in Egypt, Syria, Libya and other conflict-ridden places in the MENA (Middle East-North Africa) region. “Because of lack of information, our OFWs have resorted in braving dangerous streers and locations to get to terminals to exit posts. Forces in the Gulf region are now re-aligning and we have witnessed enough to safely say that potential violence and stife might erupt. The government should cease its ‘wait-and-see’ attitude now and not a moment to waste. Huwag na sanang maulit ang nangyari dati sa Egypt, Libya at Syria na ang ibang mga gobyerno ay na-evacuate na ang kanilang mga kababayan at ang mga OFW na lang natin ang naiwan,” Hernando said.
For its part, Migrante International opened its Crisis Hotlines to OFWs in Qatar. OFWs and their families can contact Migrante through mobile number 0921-2709079, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by leaving a message at www.facebook.com/migranteinternational.
Migrante International will also be requesting for a dialogue with the Qatar embassy in Manila to seek information on the current situation in there.
Hernando said that the current situation in Qatar and the MENA region should be a “wake-up call” for the Duterte government to stop implementing a labor export policy.
“There are roughly four (4) million OFWs in the MENA region alone, not by choice but because of forced migration brought on by joblessness, low wages and lack of basic social services. Iyong mga kakauwi pa lang mula sa Saudi Arabia, kalakhan sa kanila ay bumalik na o lumabas na naman ng bansa. Instead of subjecting our workers to the same vicious cycle, the government should seriously instigate an overhaul of the system and focus on national industrialization and genuine land reform to create more domestic jobs at home. The government’s labor export policy is ultimately accountable for placing our OFWs in the situation they are in now.” ###