Migrante International on Friday urged the government to come up with concrete contingency measures for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) affected by the diplomatic crisis in Qatar.
“We initially welcomed the DOLE’s (Department of Labor and Employment) 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,” Migrante said in a statement.
The government on Tuesday announced the suspension of OFW deployment to Qatar after several Arab countries said they will sever ties and close borders, blaming Qatar’s supposed terrorism links.
However, the DOLE decided on Wednesday to implement a partial lifting of the suspension.
READ: Dole partially lifts ban on deployment to Qatar
“Why keep sending our Filipinos to Qatar when the situation there is obviously still unstable?” said Migrante International spokesperson Arman Hernando. “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.”
Hernando said it is necessary for DOLE and the Department of Foreign Affairs to first discuss with OFWs and their families “the government’s concrete steps in ensuring the well-being and protection of at least 270,000 Filipinos in Qatar.”
He said they have received reports from their Qatar chapter of OFWs worrying about their situation.
“Saan sila tatakbo kung sakaling lumala ang sitwasyon (Where will they go to if the situation escalates)? 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,” he said.
“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 added, referring to the sponsorship system, which requires OFWs to get written consent from their sponsor or employer before they leave the country.
Migrante said employers abuse the system by confiscating passports and withholding wages.
“With the escalating situation in Qatar, a simple declaration from the DOLE that they are ‘prepared’ for emergency repatriation will not suffice,” the group said. “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 pointed out that in the past, OFWs who did not receive adequate information “resorted to braving dangerous streets and locations to get to terminals (or) exit posts.”
“Forces in the Gulf region are now re-aligning and we have witnessed enough to safely say that potential violence and strife might erupt. The government should cease its ‘wait-and-see’ attitude now and not a moment to waste,” the group said.
Hernando said they hope the situation in Egypt, Libya and Syria will not be repeated — where OFWs were the only ones left as other governments succeeded in evacuating their own people.
Hernando said the situation should be a “wake up call” for the Duterte government to stop encouraging the exporting of labor.
The group is hoping to hold a dialogue with the Qatar embassy in Manila. IDL