Expert says expanding ban on deployment of Filipino workers to Middle East ‘not a good idea’

A woman passes help wanted signs outside a recruitment agency for jobs abroad in Manila, Philippines. (AP)
Updated 06 March 2018

Expert says expanding ban on deployment of Filipino workers to Middle East ‘not a good idea’

MANILA: Expanding the ban on deployment of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), particularly household service workers, to cover other countries in the Middle East is “not a good idea,” an expert has said.
The Philippines banned the deployment of OFWs to Kuwait in January after the recent deaths of seven migrant workers.
But Emmanuel Geslani, a migration and recruitment expert, warned of possible consequences if this ban covers other Middle Eastern countries, particularly Saudi Arabia.
“We cannot totally ban (the deployment of) domestic helpers to Saudi Arabia. It will be very difficult for us to (do so) because there might be repercussions,” Geslani told Arab News.
Currently, he said, there are an estimated 1.5 to 1.8 million Filipino migrant workers in Saudi Arabia, of which about 700,000 are domestic helpers and the rest professionals and skilled workers.
“All of these skilled workers have families. Let us not exacerbate or make the situation worse than it is. The OFWs have families. That is why they are working abroad. They have to feed their families,” Geslani stressed.
“Expanding the ban is not a good idea ... We cannot just say, OK, we have jobs (for you). There are no jobs (in the Philippines), we know that. That’s why everybody leaves the country, because they (OFWs) want to get jobs,” he added.
Geslani said he believes that they are “confident that the Philippines cannot just break off ties.” While Filipinos need the jobs, (the Kingdom is) expanding the market, and need more domestic workers, especially now the KSA has allowed women to work and to drive.
“We have a special bilateral labor agreement existing with Saudi Arabia. We cannot just abrogate that agreement. Maybe we can have discussions to improve it,” he said, referring to a 2013 agreement signed by the Philippines government through the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) with Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Labor in 2013.
This agreement, he said, afforded protection for Filipino workers.
Philippines Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III last week said the ban on the deployment of OFWs may be expanded to cover other countries in the Middle East with known rampant cases of maltreatment and abuse of Filipino workers.
Bello said the widened deployment ban may be resorted to if other Middle Eastern countries fail to assure and strengthen the protection of the rights and welfare of OFWs.
“We will impose the same restrictions (like in Kuwait) and will consider a deployment ban if strengthened protection of our OFWs was not assured,” Bello added.
He added that the prohibition of the kafala (sponsorship) system is among the provisions that the government is pushing for inclusion in the agreement being negotiated with Kuwait.
Under the kafala system, the sponsor-employer has complete control over the mobility of the migrant worker. An OFW, for instance, cannot quit work or transfer jobs without first obtaining the consent of his employer.
DOLE, as part of its drastic measures to ensure protection of OFWs, sent a team to the Middle East headed by Undersecretary Ciriaco Lagunzad to further assess the condition of OFWs and provide immediate response and assistance to their needs, as well as to recommend actions to deal with their situation.
“If there is an existing bilateral labor agreement but there are still rampant cases of maltreatment, then maybe we need to amend the agreement. The minimum demand of our president is that we will only deploy in countries where our workers are properly and effectively protected,” Bello said.

Syria flare-up kills 35 fighters, including 26 pro-regime forces

Updated 48 min 53 sec ago

Syria flare-up kills 35 fighters, including 26 pro-regime forces

  • Russian-backed regime forces try to retake villages seized by opposition forces and allied fighters
  • The clashes also left 26 pro-regime forces dead in the north of Hama province


BEIRUT: At least 10 civilians and 35 combatants, mostly pro-regime forces, were killed on Saturday in clashes and airstrikes that erupted at dawn in northwestern Syria, a war monitor said.

The flare-up came as Russian-backed regime forces tried to retake two villages seized by opposition forces and allied fighters earlier this month, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

“Since this morning, the Syrian regime and allied fighters have launched five failed attempts to regain control of Jibine and Tal Maleh in northwestern Hama province,” said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.

Syrian regime airstrikes killed nine opposition fighters, the war monitor said.

Ensuing clashes in the north of Hama province left 26 pro-regime forces dead, including eight who were killed in a mine explosion, the Observatory said.

In neighboring Idlib, regime airstrikes killed 10 civilians, including three children, the Observatory said.

The strikes hit the towns of Maaret Al-Numan and Al-Bara as well as the village of Al-Ftira, according to the war monitor.

The Idlib region of some 3 million people is supposed to be protected from a massive regime offensive by a buffer zone deal that Russia and Turkey signed in September.

But it was never fully implemented, as opposition refused to withdraw from a planned demilitarized zone.

In January, the Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham alliance led by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate extended its administrative control over the region, which includes most of Idlib province as well as adjacent slivers of Latakia, Hama and Aleppo provinces.

The Syrian regime and Russia have upped their bombardment of the region since late April, killing nearly 400 civilians, according to the Observatory.

Turkey said on Friday that it did not accept Russia’s “excuse” that it had no ability to stop the Syrian regime’s continued bombardments in the last opposition bastion of Idlib.

“In Syria, who are the regime’s guarantors? Russia and Iran,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told state news agency Anadolu in a televised interview.

“Thus we do not accept the excuse that ‘We cannot make the regime listen to us’,” he said.

His comments came as Turkey disagreed with Russia earlier this week after Moscow claimed a new cease-fire had been secured in the province following weeks of regime bombardments — a claim that was denied by Ankara.

Syria’s war has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since it started in 2011 with the repression of anti-regime protests.

Russia launched a military intervention in support of the regime in 2015, helping its forces reclaim large parts of the country from opposition fighters and militants.