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    » 01/28/2010, 00.00

    PHILIPPINES – SAUDI ARABIA

    Christian Filipino migrants forced to convert to Islam

    Santosh Digal

    A Filipino nurse with ten years in Saudi Arabia talks about the dramatic situation of Christian workers, forced to embrace Islam just to keep their job. Despite abuses and violence, migrants still choose the Middle East because of the availability of work.
    Manila (AsiaNews) – “In my tens in Saudi Arabia, I have witnessed several Catholic or Christian Filipino migrants accept Islam under duress,” said Joselyn Cabrera, a Filipino Catholic nurse working at Riyadh hospital. Because of high unemployment levels in the Philippines, more than ten million Filipinos have left to seek jobs abroad. Every day, about 3,000 leave the country. Recently, a majority has gone to Arab countries—some 600,000 in all, 200,000 in Saudi Arabia alone.

    “After some months, employers give you an ultimatum, telling you to become Muslim to keep your job,” she said. “For us, it is hard to make such a choice, but if we don’t, we become the victims of abuse.”

    In her years in the kingdom, she said she saw at least 50 forced conversions at work.

    “Even I have been subjected to pressures from my Muslim co-workers, but I have always refused saying that I’d rather remain Catholic. Until now, nothing has happened to me, yet.”

    According to the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), Filipino emigration towards the Middle East has grown by 29.5 per cent between 2007 and 2008, a destination of choice for many migrants, and this despite horrible working conditions that include the possibility of forced conversion and sexual abuse in the case of women.

    The most recent case involves a woman who was raped at work. Because of the incident, Saudi authorities accused her of unlawful extramarital sex and on 11 September jailed her in the capital.

    As a result of the rape, she became pregnant, but miscarried because of harsh conditions in the prison.

    Next month, she is scheduled to appear before a court, which could sentenced her to 100 lashes (see “Riyadh: rape victim might be lashed 100 times,” in AsiaNews, 22 January 2010).

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    See also

    05/06/2010 PHILIPPINES - SAUDI ARABIA
    Filipino nurses in Riyadh against the centre of assistance to migrants: they have abandoned us
    Head of Overseas Workers Employment Assistance Administration in Riyadh under accusation. Instead of helping abused nurses he demands they return to work. The 30 women were repatriated in March and worked for Annasbah, a Riyadh company known for ongoing abuses against employees. Now fears for the fate of 30 other companions still blocked in the Saudi capital.

    11/02/2011 SRI LANKA
    Religious sisters: government ineffective on violence against migrant women
    Age raised from 18 to 21 years. But some religious are convinced that the law is useless in the face of over 4 thousand complaints of abuse, violence and torture recorded in 2009 alone by the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment.

    17/03/2012 SAUDI ARABIA - PHILIPPINES
    Saudi Arabia, 70% of Filipino domestic workers suffer physical and psychological violence
    Revealed by research of the Committee on Overseas Workers Welfare. The cases of rape suffered by Filipino young people are on the agenda. To avoid an increase in wages, the government of Riyadh bans unskilled workers from the Philippines and Indonesia.

    03/09/2010 SRI LANKA - SAUDI ARABIA
    Colombo activists and religious leaders call for end to abuse of migrants in Saudi Arabia
    In front of the Saudi Embassy in Colombo hundreds accuse their governments of failing to defend migrant rights. Protests triggered by the brutal story of a domestic worker tortured by her employers in Saudi Arabia who returned home with nails hammered throughout her body.

    10/06/2011 SRI LANKA
    Sri Lankan women workers face daily rape in Jordanian factory
    Women are abused, raped and tortured, according to a report by the Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights. Anyone who refuses sexual advances is fired and sent home. The main offender is also from Sri Lanka.



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