O.F.W.: Stories of Foreign Workers.


What makes people leave their country seeking employment? I did it for ten years, and speaking from my personal experiences, I know there are many reasons. Here are just a few:

  • Higher Pay
  • Tax – Free Wage
  • Lack of adequate employment in home country
  • Free accommodations and travel
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Kuwait 2013

Those are pretty much the standard reasons.  I have many more, but they aren’t appropriate for this blog. Now, imagine I am from a third world country.  One overflowing with individuals looking for work.  Maybe it doesn’t cost much to build a house in Calcutta, India.  Or Zamboanga Del Sur, Philippines. But when the opportunities around compensate lower than your wildest belief, you begin to look into other options.  When the opportunities around are either illegal or immoral or non-existent, you definitely begin to look elsewhere.  And when you have children and other family depending on you for whatever reason, you really have no choice but to consider working abroad.

 

Companies know that.  And take advantage of it.

Screenshot_20180122-090737

I believe the acronym”O.F.W.” began as Overseas Filipino Workers, although I’m changing the “F” in this case to “foreign”.  Just to keep the confusion out of it.  Even though the people I interviewed for this piece were both also Filipino, they know [and I need you, the reader to know] it’s not just Filipino’s.  And it (their treatent) needs to be improved.

 

After just getting out of my own little hell of bondage and captivity I was even more aware, and in some cases LOOKING for situations where people were being held against their will, without representation, unjustly and respectively in foreign countries. I’ve never been to jail, prison, or even detained in America before, but I hold to my theory that it must be somewhat comforting to be in that situation and at least be able to understand what people are talking about when speaking to, around, or about you.  When being given instructions, or paperwork; for it to be in a language that you can read and understand. That isn’t always the case in these situations.

Now, I’m not picking on the Middle East, [Or Hong Kong] these are just the two places that I’ve been where this has happened and I have first-hand knowledge and accounts of these things happening. I’ve heard stories about foreign workers being mistreated EVERYWHERE, even here in America.  Of course… we wrote the book on mistreating foreign workers.  But the situation I was in, and these situations I see these OFW’s in on a daily basis, here in 2018 is the issue.

Analyn:

ako si analyn naive nagtrabho sa bansang Saudi arabia,marami po akung pinagdaanan na labis ko pong pinagsisihan kung bakit pa ako nag aply sa bansang Saudi Arabia. isa po 43703452_292389618251059_5154501135100280832_nakung home services sa isang salon dahil bago ang salon hindi po maraming customer. sinabi ng amo ko mg trabho daw ako sa bahay nila bilang katulong,hindi po ako pumayag pero wala ako po ako magagawa kya napilitan ako mg trabaho sa bahay at salon.nag reklamo po ako sa egency pero baliwala po nila ang reklamo ko, umabot po ako sa punto na nagkasakit ako sinabi ko po na d muna ako mg tatrabaho dahil sa subra ko pong pagod at puyat. hindi po sila pumayag na d ako mg trabaho dahil nag drama lang daw ako.ng away po kami kaya d po ako ng trabho.sinabihan po ako ng amo ko d na ako puede kumaen at magloto sa kosina ,hindi na rin nila ako sinasahuran natatakot po ako dahil binabantaan nila ako,kaya naghahanap po ako nang paraan mkauwi sinabi ko po na my sakit papa ko at kailangan ko mkauwi agad.pumayag po amo ko pero sabi niya lahat nang gastosin akin lahat pati visa.pumayag po ako akin lahat nang gastosin dahil wala po ako pagkaen at d na rin ako nakakatulog nang maayos.nagpatulong po ako sa pamilya ko para mkauwi salamat Dios nkauwi po ako nang maayos.

This was of course written in her native language. In short, her time in Saudi as a salon worker sucked ass. LoL.  She wasn’t paid much, she wasn’t paid on time, she was made to do things that weren’t in her contract, they made her work while she was sick, her agency didn’t help her and neither did the embassy [until I got involved.]  Without going into too much more detail, they really really mistreated her.  Worst part about it all, she couldn’t quit!  She couldn’t leave!  Even if they DIDN’T TAKE HER PASSPORT FROM HER upon arrival to the country [a common practice in the middle east] in this particular country, she also needed something called an “exit VISA” to even be allowed to leave the country.  Passport, plane ticket… didn’t matter. If she didn’t have this exit VISA, she couldn’t go!  Simple as that, and who had to get this 300 Riyal document?  Her sponsor/employer. This is a hopeless situation that many OFW’s find themselves in.

At this point, she is back home in The Philippines.  So this ended up a success story with that fact, however, she is afraid to work abroad again.

Christine:

With the [Filipino Employment] agency I think I paid 23,000k (About $450USD) for the placement fee. When we started our orientation at work they got our passport and told us we can get it back either will go for vacation or when we resigned. Our basic salary is 1000 Dirhams monthly (About $270USD), free accommodation, free meal at work, free electric and water and free transportation. When I was in Dubai, I didn’t have any serious problems with workmates except of course some are just lazy as hell but they are kind. In my 2 years time I was not able to get promotion even just for crew trainer, sad but true my Indian manager has favoritism and promotes people who don’t deserve it. By the way, our store is located in Baniyas square where there are lots of foreign prostitutes (Iranians, Chinese, or44081453_334370557317452_4290102236219965440_n Africans I think, Russians, some Filipinos), that’s why sometimes it’s awkward to walk alone in that place coz they might think that you are one of them, especially Pakistanis, Bengals and Indians.

Accommodation for girls is separated from boys, they do random inspection and if you get caught you will be suspended around 10 days. When I was transferred in Abu Dhabi I also had the same experience, but this time when I was walking home from supermarket there is this one Pakistani who ran after me asking to have sex for 150 dirhams. O good Lord even I am not earning enough money I wouldn’t do that… eewww!

Even though these conditions are bad enough and all too routine, they are nowhere near the more severe cases.44172504_1165196190306199_6853427774619648000_n (2)In this article from The Guardian, a story of a domestic worker who disappeared and was years later found in a morgue by a driver is outlined; but definitely not something one would call a one-off or freak occurrence. It happens quite often.

So much so, that this year in January, Roger Duterte, the president of The Philippines told Filipino’s to leave Kuwait due to unchecked cases of abuse.  I will not use the word “alleged” like Screenshot_20180122-090819news sources because one, I don’t have to, and two I witnessed it myself.  This ban lasted for 5 months until he lifted the ban claiming that they had come to a conclusion about the matter. The “Kafala” [kafala meaning simply “sponsorship” in Arabic] system was put in place in The Gulf Cooperation Council [GCC]. The countries or “Arab States” participating in this conglomerate are Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and The UAE. No, not Iraq. This system among other things allows for employers of SOME overseas workers to basically rule over the lives of the worker.  And to make it extremely plain, it turns these workers into paid captives.

In 2009, which wasn’t a surprise to me, The Kingdom of Bahrain decided to lose the Kafala system. The labor minister, Majeed al Alawi went public stating Kafala was much like slavery. Kudos to Majeed!

Screenshot_20180122-090601

So, here we are [just in the gulf] talking about over 10 million people.  That’s just the Filipino’s!  Who are working under this system.  If you want to include Indo-Pak’s you are easily doubling that number! Now of course, there are millions who come home a little bit wealthier.  Still healthy, still alive.  Happy and ready to go back for more!  But the issue is, there are thousands who are grossly mistreated and for the percentage who have employers who like to exploit this system of slavery and non-representation it’s too much of a problem to ignore! It doesn’t matter that there’s a prominent Indian banker in Abu Dhabi, who has been there for 15 years, drives a Mercedes and built two homes in New Delhi if there are over three-thousand Indian and Pakistani men who have died just to build the new fucking soccer stadium in Qatar! I swear to GOD, the two times I went to the Burj Khalifa, I didn’t think of how much of a architectural marvel it was, but how many Indian’s and Pakistani’s had to die to build that thing! But no one cares right? Indians, Sri Lankans, Nepalese, Bengali’s, and Pakistanis… there are over 1.6 billion of them.  So what’s 3000?

That doesn’t include the Persians from Afghanistan and Iran working as taxi drivers and Screenshot_20180122-090725whatnot.  They aren’t treated too much better.  The exceptions are of course, other Arabs from outside the gulf.  Lebanese, Egyptian, Jordanians etc.  They are the restaurant managers, the medical professionals [above nurse level], small business owners of Barber shops, salons, etc. They’re o.k.  They still get to be treated like humans. And Americans, of course.  You think an American is going to go somewhere and let some stranger keep their passport for the duration of their stay?  Please.

And these are the major differences between me going over as foreign worker and someone from a third world country.  I had Indian and Filipino buddys who used to work for the SAME COMPANY as me,  [Dyncorp at the time] in both The UAE and Saudi Arabia.  It used to pain me to see the transportation they were forced to utilize, or the living condition’s.  And I don’t even want to get into the pay aspect [but I will].  An ex coworker of mine, I won’t mention his name because he still works there, did the SAME JOB AS I DID! SAME JOB! But because he was Filipino, the job offer he got was much different than mine.  Let’s say this was mine:

Robert Lovelle Rooks

  • $53 an hour
  • $12,000 completion bonus
  • $5,000 sign on bonus
  • 4 bedroom villa to share with one, or 2 bedroom villa to yourself
  • 1 late model vehicle to share with 1 person
  • health, dental, vision

Mr. Cool Filipino Guy from Mindanao

  • $15 an hour
  • $500 completion
  • $100 sign on bonus
  • 2 bedroom apartment to share with 6 [but really 8]
  • buy your own car, or ride the bus
  • health, and dental IN COUNTRY

 

IMG-20180114-WA0004
Saudi Arabia 2018

I’m not even going to bullshit you, that’s literally what it was. On top of that, when it came to our job, they are going to come get him much more often then they’ll come to get me.  On top of that, when they wanted to do something shady, or illegal, they would go grt him to do it. I would have to go tell them “Hey, Mr. Mindanao is not going to do that, it’s wrong” because he couldn’t say it himself.  If he did, he would be fired and or worse.

Real, Real, shit.

And it goes on to domestic helpers and teachers.  A Filipino helper may be paid $175 USD a month in a certain country in the continent of Asia, but an Ethiopian may be paid $100 a month.  Simple point, things are definitely and shamelessly conducted by race over there.

For Filipino’s there are over 130,000 in Hong Kong [I think that number is extremely low], 250,000 in Turkey, 30,000 in Lebanon, 65,000 in South Korea and so on.  This is not really a localized problem.  Shit, we have over 4 million people in America who consider themselves some type of Filipino again, double it for Indians.  Whether that be Filipino American or otherwise.  However, mostly in America and Canada, these OFW’s can always consider and try to and most likely will become part of the population.  Immigrate. Assimilate.  Be able to call themselves “American” or “Canadian” at some point.  That’s not going to happen in places like Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, UAE, etc. unless they are become married [not likely] to a loacl.  They WILL BE returning to their country of origin.

 

The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) has even listed a deployment ban of 41 countries which they have decided are unsafe for their people to be working.  Surprisingly, no GCC countries are listed. I find that quite disturbing.

 

At the cost of freedoms and far too often, innocent lives, These countries and the Filipino government apparently decided that the capital gain would be too great.  Let’s face it, if all the Filipino’s left The Gulf, these countries would fail. Within a week, people would

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0822.
Iraq 2016

starve [or at the very least realize they can’t cook].  The hospitals and medical institutions of all these nations would be forced to close or give inadequate care.  And of course, one of the biggest sources of employment and income to the Philippine nation would be no more, not to mention any Government and under-the-table kick backs Filipino employment agencies and officials receive for allowing this bullshit to continue.

Some more fun fiction, Indians and Pakistani’s leaving the gulf would be THE END of everything in the gulf!  Gas stations would close, banks would close, nothing would be built, nothing would be cleaned all service positions would be left vacant, I mean honestly… nothing but some underpaying jobs are keeping these two majorities from taking over or at least being at an extreme upper hand in either of these regions… sounds like a good book idea. 3rd country expats rise up to take over the countries they are grossly outnumber the indigenous inhabitants. Anyway, I’m getting off topic.

 

In conclusion, I would like to say again this isn’t everyone.  Most can go overseas and work, and even with systems like Kafala, and general racism that occurs in these

Screenshot_20180122-090700
Labor Camp.  Common for Indo-Pak laborers in the Gulf.

situations can go make their money and come home happy.  But for the hundreds, maybe thousands who ship out to these countries expecting to be a nurse in Seoul and end up being a juicy girl in some bar in Osan; or expecting to be a worker, pulling ten hour shifts five days a week living in a flat in downtown Abu Dhabi, but turn out you are working seven days a week, twelve hour shifts and living in a labor camp outside of Al Ain; it’s an unacceptable surprise! Number one, these sponsors need to know they are hiring people… humans, not slaves or robots.  Not expendable things they can dispose of whenever they want!  Their host countries and their embassy workers need to be looking over these contracts and enforcing them! And if it comes down to it, we, the people who are just trying to look elsewhere for opportunities to make a way for ourselves and our families need to just say “No”! “No!” to being OFW’s until all this mess is figured out.

 

Scream at me.

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