Cases of abused, maltreated and raped overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the Middle East are expected to drop with the Saudi government's setting up a special department that would address exploitation of foreign workers.
Labor Secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas said the government of Saudi Arabia created the special unit to handle and assist cases involving maltreatment and abuse of domestic workers. “The special department has been formed to safeguard the rights of guest or foreign workers and impose the sanctions on employers who abuse the workers,” Sto. Tomas said. While the Department of Labor and Employment has no exact figures on maltreatment, rape and abuse cases, Sto. Tomas said a great number of Filipino workers had been complaining of exploitation from their Saudi employers. T
he special unit was formed as the Saudi Department of Protection of Domestic Workers will primarily handle and assist foreign workers complaining of sexual abuse, maltreatment as well as non-payment of salaries. Jeddah-based Labor Attache Bulyok Nilong said a similar agency, the Protection of Foreign Workers, formed three months ago by the Saudi government has been receiving complaints from foreign domestic workers since its creation in May 2005.
He said majority of the complaints lodged by OFWs to the Saudi government involves non-payment or delay in the payment of salaries, as well as maltreatment and sexual abuse.
Meanwhile, Saudi Deputy Minister of Labor Dr. Ahmed Al-Zamil is hopeful that the establishment of the special unit will curtail the exploitation committed on expatriates. Those who will be found guilty of exploitation, Zamil said, face sanctions ranging from prohibition to hire foreign domestic workers for five years and payment of fines and penalties.
At the moment, there are an estimated one million OFWs in Saudi Arabia, more than 30,000 in Bahrain, over 60,000 in Kuwait, 20,000 in Oman, more than 35,000 in Qatar and over 170,000 in the United Arab Emirates.
Records of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration showed that on a daily basis, at least 3 OFWs return home mentally ill, while others report of having been abused. Marie A. Surbano