04/17/2018, 14.59
SAUDI ARABIA – PHILIPPINES
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Forced to drink bleach, Filipina domestic worker in Jizan remains in serious conditions

Saudi police arrested her employer. Agnes Mancilla underwent emergency abdominal surgery. In February, allegations of abuses of domestic workers sparked tensions between the Philippines and Kuwait. The Church set up a migrant desk in its 86 dioceses.

Riyadh (AsiaNews/Agencies) – A Filipina domestic worker is in a Saudi hospital after her employer forced her to drink bleach, the Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs announced yesterday.

On 2 April, Agnes Mancilla underwent emergency abdominal surgery after she was taken unconscious to a hospital in the southwestern Saudi city of Jizan.

“We are working closely with [the] authorities in Jizan to make sure that justice will be given to Agnes Mancilla,” the Department said in a statement.

The victim, it added, is in “serious but stable condition” in hospital and Saudi police have arrested her female employer, who has not been named.

Mancilla had worked in Saudi Arabia since 2016 “but was repeatedly physically abused by her lady employer” who also failed to pay her salary, the statement went on to say, citing Edgar Badajos, the Filipino consul in the Saudi city of Jeddah.

The report is the latest about alleged mistreatment of Filipino workers in the Middle East.

In February, allegations of abuse of domestic workers caused a diplomatic flap between the Philippines and Kuwait.

Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte lashed out at Kuwait, where the body of a murdered Filipina maid was found stuffed in a freezer.

Duterte ordered the repatriation of 10,000 Filipino migrants who had remained in the emirate and the "total ban" on new departures for Kuwait, one of the many countries in the Middle East that host more than 2 million Filipino workers.

Duterte claimed that Arab employers routinely rape their Filipina workers, force them to work 21 hours a day, and feed them scraps.

To fill the gap left by departing Filipinos, the Kuwait government turned to Ethiopian migrant workers.

Last week Duterte said Kuwait had agreed to his demands to improve the working conditions of Filipinos, following negotiations between the two countries on a labour accord.

One of his key demands is that Filipino workers be allowed to keep their mobile phones and passports – which can be confiscated by employers under current conditions.

Duterte said he would visit Kuwait to witness the signing of the agreement, without giving an exact date.

At present, some ten million Filipinos work abroad, many of them in Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Hong Kong, Kuwait and Qatar.

Through remittances sent home, overseas Filipinos contribute to the country’s economy.

In previous years, the money sent home saved the Philippines from a financial crisis and transfers are still one of the major sources of revenue for the national economy.

According to the Central Bank of the Philippines, overseas Filipinos sent home at least 1,400 billion pesos (US$ 2.6 billion) between January and November last year.

For its part, the Filipino Catholic Church continues to monitor the situation of Filipinos living abroad and their families left behind at home.

"One of the alarming social realities that our country is facing today is the phenomenon of overseas migration," said Father Leonardo Adaptar, director of the diocesan migrant ministry in the Diocese of Cubao, speaking to AsiaNews.

"However, more and more negative stories are coming in, pertaining to their issues and concerns of migrants and their families," he added.

There is a greater need to monitor and pastorally provide overseas Filipinos and their family with help, particularly in terms of legal guidance, counselling and welfare, he explained.

To this end, each of the country’s 86 dioceses has been tasked with setting up a migrant desk in partnership with the Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines.

(Santhosh Digal contributed to this article)

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