30 distressed OFWs in Lebanon back in PH

Robie de Guzman   •   December 23, 2019   •   451

MANILA, Philippines – A total of 30 distressed Filipino workers from Lebanon arrived in Manila through the government’s repatriation program, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Monday.

The Filipinos arrived on Sundayvia Etihad Airways flight. Among them were five minors.

The DFA said they were allegedly victims of trafficking in persons as there is an existing deployment ban to Lebanon.

“This is the kind of commitment we give to our OFWs under this administration. Time and again, we are ready to serve whenever, wherever,” Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs Sarah Lou Arriola said.

Before leaving Beirut, the group of distressed Filipinos thanked President Rodrigo Duterte and DFA Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. for their commitment to serve the interests of the overseas Filipino workers.

Upon arrival at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, the repatriates were welcomed by officials from the DFA and the Department of Justice.

The DFA said it has coordinated with the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) to help victims pursue the filing of cases against their illegal recruiters.

The department’s Migrants Workers’ Affairs unit shouldered the cost of the victims’ repatriation to Manila and/or their home provinces, as well as the immigration costs and penalties.

The repatriates also received financial assistance amounting to US $100.

Remains of two Filipino fatalities in Abu Dhabi blast set for repatriation — DFA

Marje Pelayo   •   September 11, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Thursday (September 10) reported that the remains of the two Filipinos who died in the gas leak explosion on August 31 in Abu Dhabi, UAE are now being prepared for repatriation to the Philippines.

The repatriation was set after all matters were cleared by authorities. 

Meanwhile, embassy officials and DFA regional representatives along with personnel from the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) are now working closely with the families for the acceptance of the remains.

The DFA-DOLE composite team recently visited one of the families in their hometown, while Ambassador Hjayceelyn Quintana met with the widow and brother of the other deceased Filipino in Abu Dhabi, the DFA said.

The embassy arranged the viewing of the remains by family members, and is currently monitoring discussions between the families of the deceased and their employers. The families are also being assisted in the processing of the death benefits they will be receiving from the Philippine government.

Meanwhile, Ambassador Quintana spoke by phone to a Filipino survivor who was injured from the accident and now recovering well in the hospital.

The embassy expressed gratitude to the UAE government for ensuring that the affected Filipinos are cared for. 

The embassy also thanked members of the Filipino community whose prayers and expressions of support lent healing and comfort to the families of the victims.

DFA expedites repatriation of OFWs in Beirut, Lebanon

Marje Pelayo   •   August 10, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — The national government is shelling out P15 million to fund the repatriation of overseas Filipinos in Lebanon following two massive explosions in Port of Beirut.

This was revealed by Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddy Locsin in a post on Twitter. 

The said amount will fund a chartered flight with Qatar Airways to fly the Filipinos in Lebanon back home to the Philippines. 

Meanwhile, the Philippines Embassy in Beirut is processing the repatriation of the remains of all four Filipinos who died in the incident. 

Their remains are expected to arrive on August 16.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said about 400 overseas Filipinos from Lebanon are expected to board the chartered flight. 

Before the blasts, the agency has been doing repatriation of Filipinos from Lebanon whose jobs have been impacted by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. 

To date, there are a total 124, 717 Filipinos who returned home from Lebanon since February. 

Singapore’s migrant workers fear financial ruin after virus ordeal

UNTV News   •   June 9, 2020

As Sharif Uddin begins to dream about leaving the cramped Singapore dormitory where he has spent weeks under coronavirus quarantine, fears about his future are creeping in.

The 42-year-old Bangladeshi construction site supervisor is one of the thousands of low-income migrant workers trapped in packed bunk rooms that have been ravaged by the coronavirus, accounting for more than 90% of Singapore’s 38,000 infections.

As Singapore began easing its lockdown measures this month, migrants like Uddin started to think about returning to the outside world, bringing to the surface worries about jobs and debts as Singapore braces for its deepest-ever recession.

“The fear of losing jobs is worrying everyone at the moment,” said Uddin, who sends the bulk of his wages to his family in Bangladesh, like many of the South Asians working in manual jobs in Singapore.

For most migrant workers, at least part of their salaries is used to pay off the steep fees of the agent who helped procure the job.

Reuters has interviewed over a dozen migrant workers in Singapore in recent weeks. While many said they were still being paid, they were unsure if they will retain their jobs when the quarantine is lifted.

The Singapore government has given companies tax breaks to try and ensure migrants get paid while under quarantine and introduced measures to help laid off workers find new positions without having to first travel back to their home country, a core complaint of many labourers.

Lawrence Wong, the co-head of Singapore’s virus task force, told Reuters that the government had taken steps to help alleviate the concerns of workers around job security, but added that layoffs were possible given the grim economic outlook.

“There may be some contractors who might decide – well despite all the government measures, with the new arrangements, the new additional requirements in construction, it is very difficult and I might not want to continue in this industry – and then indeed they might release some of their workers,” said Wong, who is also the minister for national development.

He added that some workers may remain quarantined in their dormitories until August, or possibly beyond, as the government completes mass testing.

The pandemic has drawn attention to the stark inequalities in the modern city-state where more than 300,000 labourers from Bangladesh, India and China often live in rooms for 12 to 20 men, working jobs that pay as little as S$20 ($14.30) a day.

That is higher than they would make at home. But the median salary for Singaporeans in 2019 was S$4,563 per month, according to the manpower ministry.

The bigger worry for many migrants like Uddin is the debts they have racked up securing jobs in Singapore.

Migrants will usually be charged S$7,000-10,000 in fees by a recruitment agent in their home country, equivalent to more than a year of their basic salary, according to rights groups. If they lose their job, this debt could haunt their families for years.

“An indebted worker is a more compliant worker and that is what the employers like. That is one reason too that employers prefer to have new workers, than to retain old workers,” said Deborah Fordyce, president of Singapore NGO Transient Workers Count Too.

Wong, the minister, said the government will continue to work to improve migrants’ lives in Singapore, but tackling issues like fees is difficult because many agents operate in the workers’ home countries outside the city-state’s jurisdiction.

Singapore’s government has pledged to improve living conditions for migrant workers in the short-term and build new, higher-spec dormitories over the coming years. (Reuters)

(Production: Pedja Stanisic, Joseph Campbell, Edgar Su, Travis Teo)

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