x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Filipinas forced to work abroad

Maids have been forced to move to Libya and Qatar after their employers left the UAE, rights group says.

DUBAI // The Philippine government should protect Filipina maids who are being illegally sent to other countries by their employers, a migrant rights group says.

Since last year Migrante-UAE has received complaints from two women, one in Qatar and another in Libya, who were forced to work there after their employers left the Emirates, said Nhel Morona, the group's secretary general.

Mr Morona said another maid in Dubai contacted the group when she learnt her employers had decided to return to Lebanon and wanted her to work for them.

"We warned her she would be an undocumented worker in Lebanon," he said.

"She should first return to the Philippines and her employer could hire her through an agency."

Amilbahar Amilasan, the labour attache in Dubai, said the Philippine overseas labour office had this month coordinated with its counterpart in Syria to rescue a maid.

Nida Lozada, a maid who worked for a Syrian employer in Damascus, arrived in Dubai on February 6.

"She originally sought help from the Philippine overseas labour office in Damascus to be repatriated," Mr Amilasan said.

"Due to the security situation, our government raised the crisis alert level from three to four in Syria, which called for the mandatory repatriation of Filipinos."

But Ms Lozada's employer refused to send her back to the Philippines and booked her flight to Dubai, en route to Doha.

She was instructed by the labour office to approach an immigration officer on her arrival in Dubai.

Venus Abad, the assistant labour attache in Dubai, was waiting for her at the airport and the Philippine consulate provided a ticket to Manila.

Mr Amilasan said the government also had problems with maids escaping from their employers when they accompanied them to the UAE on holiday.

Some end up in the Filipino Workers Resource Centre, a shelter in Dubai run by labour and welfare officials.

"They decided to run away to look for better job opportunities here," Mr Amilasan said.

This week Rosalinda Baldoz, the Philippine labour secretary, said the protection of household workers - the "most vulnerable" overseas Filipino workers - was a top priority.

Ms Baldoz directed all government agencies involved in overseas employment to work together to curb abuses that lead to Filipinos absconding from their employers.

Sangguniang Masang Pilipino International (Council of the Filipino Masses), a group dedicated to aiding domestic helpers, receives calls "almost every day" from maids who wish to leave their employers, said Ibrahim Romel Beltran, one of the group's officers.

rruiz@thenational.ae