The Philippines' Embassy in Manama repatriated 22 of Filipino nationals on 27 August, most of whom were undocumented workers. This is the second major repatriation project undertaken by the Philippines in 2011, the first being in January.
The workers were stranded and jobless after having left their employers. They cited a range of reasons for absconding, including delayed or unpaid wages, physical and verbal abuse and long hours, according to this press release from the Philippine Embassy in Bahrain.
Philippine Ambassador to Bahrain Corazon Yap-Bahjin accompanied the returning workers.
The workers had been staying at the Philippine Embassy's halfway house in Manama for four months while Embassy officials secured their exit visas.
According to Yap Bahjin, the fact that it was the month of Ramadan meant that employers were inclined to give more lenient treatment to the workers.
“In the spirit of Ramadan, we took advantage of the employers’ spirit of charity and we convinced them not to charge for the deployment cost,” the ambassador said (see this article in The Manila Bulletin)
Emergency repatriations of distressed workers are a routine occurrence for Philippine embassies in the Middle East. Between 8.6 and 11 million Philippinos - or 11% of the population - work overseas, according to the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, with many of these working as domestics and blue collar workers in the Middle East.
Lebanon, for example, saw a spate of repatriations in late 2010/early 2010:
“Mass repatriations normally occur twice a year—mid–year and in December,” said Salome Mendoza, assistant labor attaché of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office. “It’s only as we approached 2011 that they’ve happened successively.”
(from ABS-CBN News 02/02/2011)
The succession of repatriations of Philippine nationals has been just one grim indicator of how poor conditions for migrant workers in the region remain.