A bad economy at home, their hardworking nature and the lure of foreign riches make thousands of Filipinos seek employment opportunities outside of their own country every year. They leave for pastures new with the hope of earning a respectable living on foreign lands and remitting their savings back home. It doesn't always work this way though.
Thanks to its Islamic heritage sites, Saudi Arabia attracts around 15 million tourists every year. Moreover, the Saudi nation's luxurious lifestyle means they need tons of hired help. This is where Filipinos become one of their most important imports.
As a result, the kingdom has become the largest employer of working class Filipinos in the world, and is also home to the largest Pinoy community in the Middle East. While other wealthy Arab nations rely heavily on the Philippines to meet their labor requirements, none are more inviting than the KSA.
According to an estimate, the Saudi Arabian embassy issues visas to up to 1,000 Filipinos on a daily basis. It sounds like a win-win situation, really, where the Arabs get help and the Filipinos get employment. But a number of eye-opening incidents of abuse over the years have proved that the Philippine nationals who leave their homeland for the deserts of Middle East get a very raw deal. On foreign soil, theirs is not a hunky-dory life by any means.
A 2009 study conducted by John Leonard Monterona had revealed how a large number of Filipinos in Saudi Arabia are "victims of sexual abuses, maltreatment, unpaid salaries and other labor malpractices."
If their local sponsor/agent doesn't double as a human trafficker, then the job assigned to them is long, arduous and thankless to the point of slavery. But the thing that takes the cake is the way many are treated by their employers. Last year, a 23-year-old main from Pikit was doused with hot water by her Saudi employer just because she was slow doing her chores. Filipinos aren't the only sufferers of these atrocities, but they do bear more brunt than anyone else due to their bigger contingent in the kingdom.
They don't get any help from law enforcement officers either. The shocking incident of a Pinoy mall worker brutally beaten and raped by a group of police officers is also fresh in our memories.
Exported labor is the Philippines' second highest source of foreign cash. In fact, people heading out of the country are so common that they have a widely used term for such migrants, which is: Overseas Filipino Workers. With the ailing Asian nation relying so heavily on foreign remittances, limiting outbound workers is out of the question. What their government can do, however, is set up more watchdog organizations that oversee such matters and contact foreign authorities and human rights groups in case of labor abuse.
Banner/Thumbnail credit: Reuters