Manila urges OFWs in Saudi Arabia, Qatar told to look elsewhere

Government official announces the establishment of a job fair to undertake skills profiling of foreign-based Filipinos

Manila: The Philippine government is encouraging thousands of overseas foreign workers (OFWs), who lost their jobs or were displaced by events unfolding in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, to seek opportunities elsewhere.

According to Silvestre Bello III, Philippine Labour Secretary, the government is working on convincing Filipino workers in Saudi Arabia and Qatar “to return home or be employed elsewhere overseas.”

Earlier on Thursday, Bello said that the Philippines may be forced to restrict Filipinos from getting jobs, particularly employment as maids, in certain Middle East countries if abuses against them persist.

Bello said the government is contemplating the possibility of a deployment ban of Filipino maids and other workers in Saudi Arabia if the kingdom can “not impose stronger protective mechanisms to ensure the safety and welfare of our workers there.”

As for Qatar, Filipino workers there are also under pressure due to the diplomatic row between Doha and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member countries.

“This is what the Labour Department intends to do [entice Filipinos in Qatar and Saudi Arabia to return to the Philippines] with the establishment of a Job Fair Task Force that will conduct a special job fair and skills profiling of OFWs [Overseas Filipino Workers] based in these two countries,” Bello said.

In an administrative order, Bello directed the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) and Bureau of Local Employment (BLE) to undertake a supply-demand profiling and skills-job matching of Filipino workers in Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Saudi Arabia is a top destination for OFWs, employing more than a million Filipino skilled workers and professionals as well as house maids.

Bello said that OFWs that require further upgrading of skills according to the requirements of participating employers will be referred to the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) for training prior to their deployment — whether locally or overseas.

This report comes on the heels of a steady stream of repatriations of Filipino workers from Kuwait. Every week, hundreds of workers from that country arrive in the Philippines after awaiting months of working on their repatriation papers.

The Philippines had also prohibited its workers, specifically those on “new contract”, from leaving for jobs in Kuwait following reports over the death of Joanna Demafelis, a Filipino housemaid whose remains were found stored inside a freezer at the home of her former employers. The suspects — a married couple — are both non-Kuwaiti Arab nationals.

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