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CALL TO IMMEDIATELY REVOKE THE SUSPENSION OF ADMISSION OF WOMEN MIGRANT WORKERS INTO THE PHILIPPINES SHELTER IN SAUDI ARABIA

On Sat, Oct 16, 2021 at 12:02 PM erwin puhawan <erwinpuhawanfdc@gmail.com> wrote:

17,10,2021


CALL TO IMMEDIATELY REVOKE THE SUSPENSION OF ADMISSION OF WOMEN MIGRANT WORKERS INTO THE PHILIPPINES SHELTER IN SAUDI ARABIA

Women migrants working in Saudi Arabia face a challenging context with a well documented risk  of human and labour rights violations, including in some cases physical and sexual violence.

The women’s shelter ( Bahay-Kalinga ) has provided an essential place for women who escape abusive workplaces to seek direct assistance from the Philippine Government.

The context of Saudi Arabia poses unique challenges for a distressed female worker to seek safety.

The legal restrictions imposed on movement by the Kafala Sponsorship System, means a worker escaping a workplace could be charged with “absconding”. Additionally the country restricts women’s rights under the male Guardianship System and has dehumanising xenophobic negative stereotypes of migrant workers. Subsequently a woman escaping a workplace must have a safe place to access quickly, where she can seek direct assistance.

Denial of a safe space places women in danger by potentially trapping them in an abusive situation. The worst outcomes of this situation are already known in Saudi Arabia, as women migrant workers have been forced to work months-years without wages, live under forced confinement for years, appallingly killed by employers or have sadly responded with suicide

when unable to escape.

There are serious problems with the advisory redirecting migrant workers back to recruitment agencies to provide them with accommodation, given historically this has largely been unsuccessful – especially when an urgent response is required.

In Kanlungan Centre Foundation’s 32 years of experience of working with distressed migrant workers we have found that the worker usually contacts the recruitment agency before the Philippine Embassy or even their family – particularly as they are taught to do so in pre-departure training ( PDOS ). The majority do not receive the assistance they require from the agency.

Instead common responses are “ finish your contract whatever happens” or “ Magtiis -Persevere”.

They are often told “we cannot do anymore”, despite the recruitment agency being fully aware   that they have a legal responsibility to respond. Under Philippine Law recruitment agencies are jointly and solidarity liable for the acts of omission of an employer – thus they are legally bound to respond to recruitment violations, wage theft and have a duty to repatriate the worker.

Ultimately the Philippine Government has a mandate under the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995 to assist all distressed Filipino migrant workers, irrespective of immigration status and thus cannot abdicate this responsibility to assist the women seeking shelter.

Especially during a pandemic when recruitment agencies are retrenching employees and migrant workers are disproportionately negatively e?ected – the impact of this crisis should be met with compassion and more assistance for migrant workers, not less.

Kanlungan has campaigned for decades for a safe and legal exit for migrant workers in Saudi Arabia to leave workplaces due to the serious negative impact of violations on them.

There must be no further deterioration in the safety of Filipinas due to attempts to shift responsibility solely to recruitment agencies, who are unlikely to deliver assistance let alone accommodation.

We call for the POLO to urgently lift the suspension on admission to the shelter, fulfilling  the mandate of their o?ce to protect the rights and welfare of distressed migrant workers.

There is a historical precedent for the Philippine government creating additional accommodation for migrant workers overseas in times of crisis that could be acted upon now if necessary.

If the suspension continues there must be a specific public rationale provided for the action.

There must be a specific pathway identified, o?ered and guaranteed to women for accommodation and repatriation , who are denied assistance by their recruitment agency.

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