Manila (AsiaNews / Agencies) - More than 30 Filipino nurses, for years victims of abuse in the Saudi company Annasbah, in recent days have accused the assistance office of the Overseas Workers Employment Administration (OWWA) in Riyadh of complicity with employers. The women repeatedly applied to the service centre run by Filipinos to obtain permission to return home, but were ignored and forced to return to work without any medical assistance. After months of waiting they had to pay for their return from their own pockets to pay. Now they fear for the fate of 30 other companions who are still in Saudi Arabia.
Eppie Bellamar, one of the survivors, said: "Instead of helping us the Filipino Foreign Workers Administration of Riyadh prolonged our agony, leaving in the hands of our exploiters, and now it is doing the same with our companions who are still in Saudi Arabia". Together with the other nurses she has compiled a list of charges against Burayag Nestor, Head of the Owwa Service in Saudi Arabia.
The document lists the "five deadly sins" committed by Burayag: the delay in the repatriation process for failing to put pressure on Annasbah for the issuing of visas, the absence of food and medical assistance for sick nurses, forcing the women to pay of one thousand Euros for the return ticket, instead of requiring repayment from the company. Burayag also asked the nurses to stop their protests and to return to work.
Annasban is a well known Saudi company active in the hospital service and uses Owwa services to find Philippine migrant workers to employ in its structures. In recent years it has often been accused of exploitation and inhumane working conditions with the partial complicity of the head of the Owwa in Riyadh. They are responsible for providing assistance to migrants and to report any abuses by businesses to the Philippine government.
In January, 88 nurses began a hunger strike to protest against the company and assistance to migrants office who had refused repatriation to a colleague who became ill during service, the a request that was judged inappropriate. To date, the Philippine authorities have not issued any official statement against the company, which continues to recruit the thousands of migrants who leave the country every day.
According to the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) from 2007 to 2008, migration to the Middle East has seen an increase of 29.5% because of the wide availability of employment opportunities it remains among the top choices of migrants. And this despite the terrible working conditions, the risk of forced conversions and sexual abuse suffered by women.