Philippines workers in Saudi ‘on hunger strike’

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Nearly 180 Filipino workers are said to be on hunger strike in Saudi Arabian capital Riyadh to protest alleged abuse from authorities and employers, and illegal recruitment, reported the Philippine Online Chronicles.

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“The [workers], along with other maltreated migrant workers of other nationalities, held respective strikes and ‘stop-work protests’ against their companies,” said Garry Martinez, chairman of Migrante International, a rights group for Filipinos.

 “They appealed to the [Philippines] embassy to help them, but they were left to tend for themselves. Eventually, they ran out of food and resources,” he added.

Martinez claimed that workers were illegally recruited and suffered contract violations, including overcharging of placement fees, contract substitution, non-existent fees and non-issuance of working and residence permits.

Other alleged violations include lack of overtime pay, underpayment, absence of medical insurance, and non-payment of salaries, lasting from 10 months to more than a year.

According to the newspaper, many Filipino workers would be imprisoned if caught by Saudi authorities, due to expired residency permits, which would also prevent them finding alternative employment.

Cases are said to have been filed at Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Labour, but no decision on the workers’ futures has been made.

Another hunger strike to coincide with the Philippines’ President’s State of the Nation Address is being planned.

According to statistics published by the Filipino government, there were approximately 1.6m Philippines nationals working in Saudi Arabia in 2009.

Source: Arabian Business

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