ABU DHABI // Recruiters hiring Filipina maids and nannies are keeping a close watch on their workers after two agencies were suspended by a Philippine government agency following the death of a housemaid in Dubai.
Alona Bagayan, 31, a mother of four, arrived in the UAE on January 30. Al Madina Recruitment sent her to her sponsor in Dubai on February 1 but the woman was found dead five days later.
Earlier this month, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) suspended Al Masiya Overseas Placement Agency in Manila and its UAE counterpart, Al Madina, for "their apparent oversight in monitoring the actual condition of Alona Mercado Bagayan prior to her death".
Both agencies were suspended from further employing Filipino workers for defaulting on their contractual obligation to the worker, according to the POEA.
"We were surprised," said Mohammed Yakoob, who has been the manager of Al Madina Recruitment in Abu Dhabi since 2006. He added that the agency had co-ordinated with the Philippine Embassy when it learned about the death of Ms Bagayan, but said the woman's death was beyond the agency's control.
"We did not receive any complaint from her sponsor when she was with them for four days and five nights in Dubai," Mr Yakoob said. He sent a staff member from Al Madina to Manila to explain the agency's version of events to POEA officials.
"We'd like to emphasise that it is their obligation to monitor the well-being of the worker," Hans Cacdac, head of the POEA, said from Manila.
"Co-ordinating with the Philippine Embassy upon the worker's death is important but monitoring the well-being is a preventive measure that's lost in the Philippine agency and the foreign counterpart in relation to Alona Bagayan."
Both agencies are on preventive suspension pending an investigation by the POEA, he said.
"It must be a difficult time for the agency," said Juliet Lasalita, who runs a recruitment agency in Al Ain. "Many of us are scared that we'll be suspended since it's hard for us to monitor each worker we recruit from the Philippines."
Mr Cacdac, however, said agencies should have a manageable number of workers to monitor.
"If we're suspended, it's going to be a big loss for us," Ms Lasalita said. "One spends about Dh300,000 to open an agency."
Her agency is also considering hiring household workers from Vietnam, Nepal, Indonesia and India.
A clerk at an Abu Dhabi recruitment agency said agencies were now feeling the pressure of a possible suspension. "We will continue to co-ordinate with the sponsor and the maid's family," she said.
Last year, the agency had to repatriate a Filipina maid one week after she arrived in the UAE because she failed her medical exam.
"Another maid spent four months with her employer and was sent to hospital," the clerk said. "She was found to be mentally unstable so we had to send her home."