Manila to rescue 20,000 Filipino migrant workers going hungry in Saudi Arabia

The government plans to bring humanitarian and legal assistance, and find a way to repatriate its citizens. Due to the decline in oil prices, migrant workers have not been paid for months, forced to beg and sift through garbage to survive.

Manila (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The Filipino government plans to send a diplomatic delegation to Saudi Arabia to discuss the conditions of thousands of migrant workers who are hungry because they have not been paid by their employers.

The drop in oil prices and the consequent difficulty of Saudi companies have left some 20,000 Filipinos stranded without salary for months, forced to live by their wits.

The first batch of officials plans to travel to Saudi Arabia on Wednesday “to provide immediate humanitarian, legal, and other consular assistance to the overseas Filipino workers stranded in work camps across Saudi Arabia,” a Foreign Department statement said. Once there, the envoys will negotiate with Saudi authorities a long-term solution.

“The directive of (President Rodrigo Duterte) is to bring all of them home as soon as possible,” Labour Secretary Silvestre Bello said.

Back home, labour rights monitors said last week that some Filipinos have been forced to beg or sift through garbage to survive after going unpaid for months or after having been laid off from construction jobs.

The Filipino government estimates about 9,000 Filipino workers are affected, though the Manila-based labour rights group Migrante said as many as 20,000 could be in distress.

A few days ago also the Indian government announced that it was going to repatriate 10,000 workers laid-off or unpaid by Saudi oil companies.

About ten million Filipinos work abroad, 2.2 million in Saudi Arabia. On 30 December 2015, the kingdom’s executioner beheaded, Joselito Lidasan Zapanta, a 35-year-old Filipino tiler, who failed to pay blood money.