DOLE again eyes deployment ban on Saudi Arabia
The Department of Labor and Employment (Dole) may stop sending workers to Saudi Arabia (KSA) until the kingdom’s government shows that they can and will protect Filipino workers, particularly domestic helpers.
“I am studying the possibility of suspending deployment until they show, especially the government of KSA, that they are ready to protect OFWs (overseas Filipino workers),” Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said in a radio interview on Thursday.
He said he had already instructed Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) Administrator Bernard Olalia to also study the recommendation of Fidel Macauyag, the country’s labor attaché in Riyadh, to impose a deployment ban.
Macauyag made the recommendation after retired Saudi Gen. Ayed Thawah Al Jeaid refused to release on Sept. 27 two Filipina domestic workers distressed in his employ.
The Philippine Overseas Labor Office (Polo) in Riyadh said Al Jeaid had hired 16 Filipinos as domestic workers over the past three years and they complained of constant beatings, various forms of abuse and unpaid salaries.
The general was supposedly blacklisted, according to the Blas F. Ople Policy Center (BOPC), but Al Jeaid still managed to hire more Filipinos with the connivance of local recruitment agencies and unidentified government employees.
Labor rights advocate Susan Ople, BOPC president, claimed Al Jeaid was able to hire the Filipinos by using different names in separate job contracts, which were approved by the POEA through the assistance of different recruitment agencies.
Upon their arrival in the country last week, the victimized OFWs sought the assistance of BOPC so they could hold the retired general accountable and hire a lawyer to handle the case, as well as coordinate with the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh.
Of the eight that the general managed to employ this year, five were repatriated on Sept. 2 while another was brought to the Polo shelter this week. Al Jeaid has refused to release the two others, Bello said.
“Matigas ang ulo ng lintik na heneral na ito (This darned general is so stubborn),” Bello said in the radio interview. “That’s why I’m studying a halt to deployments.”
If Bello pushes through with the plan, it would be the second time for him to order a deployment ban this year.
In May, Dole imposed the first deployment ban because of a lack of “clear and expressed” guidelines on who would shoulder the cost of the quarantine expenses and insurance of migrant workers amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
But the ban was lifted even before it took effect after the Saudi government assured the Dole that employers and agencies in the kingdom would shoulder the costs of migrant workers’ quarantine expenses.
More than a million Filipinos work in Saudi Arabia as construction workers, domestic helpers or nurses.
In 2020, Filipinos in Saudi Arabia sent home $1.8 billion in remittances, a key support for the economy.