Filipino migrant workers who lost their jobs and were stranded in the Middle East during the pandemic have decried what they described as lack of government support.
In an online press briefing organized by the group Migrante International on June 19, the migrant workers voiced out their calls to the government.
Bernadette Erlano, one of 300 Filipino women who worked as a cleaner in the Saudi Arabian city of Al Khobar, said most of them have not received their salary since March 1.
“We were only provided with food allowance,” she said. “We already talked with the Philippine Overseas Labor Office here, but until now we’re waiting for aid,” added Erlano.
Last week, a video showing Louie Perez and other workers scavenging for food in a garbage bin in the capital Riyadh went viral on social media.
Perez said they followed the process to apply for financial aid from the Philippine government “but we were told that we are not qualified.”
He said scavenging for food “should be enough reason” for the government to consider us qualified and have all of us repatriated.”
Perez said he had a co-worker who “died in distress” a few days back.
On June 21, Labor Secretary Silvertre Bello III said Saudi Arabia gave the Philippines 72 hours to bring home the remains of 282 deceased Filipino workers in the kingdom.
“We received communication from King Salman of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and they gave us 72 hours to bring home our dead,” said Bello.
He said out of the 282 deaths, 50 died of the new coronavirus disease.
The Labor chief said the Philippine government will ask King Salman to allow the burial of those who died of the disease in Saudi Arabia.
Bello said the government is set to charter three flights to bring home the other remains.
As of June 19, government data showed that more than 3,920 Filipino workers in the Middle East were infected with the new coronavirus disease.
Joanna Concepcion, chairwoman of Migrante International, said called for the immediate repatriation of stranded workers and urged the government to aid their families.
“Stranded workers should not be made to pay for flights just to be repatriated. They should be provided with free repatriation and medical assistance,” she said.