S.O.S from Lebanon
Don’t let some empty seats on flights bringing repatriated Filipinos from Lebanon to Manila fool you. I recently received a comment followed by an e-mail from Helen who’s sister is entrapped in Lebanon. It seems her sister has been prohibited from answering phone calls from anxious relatives. Everytime Helen calls up the residence where her sister works, the employer always gives an excuse as to why the Filipino helper can’t answer the phone.
A text message passed on to me by good friend, Arnold Clavio, dealt with a similar problem though this time involving an OFW who was being trapped in the basement by her employers.
I have forwarded both SOS messages to the top officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Labor and Employment as well as the Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration for appropriate action. I was able to confirm with DFA Undersecretary Rafael Seguis (who is now helping our OFWs who have crossed the border from Beirut to Damascus) and OWWA Administrator Nito Roque that both messages for help were already received by our Beirut embassy.
Aside from sending a note verbale to the Lebanese government, I believe the Philippine government can go a step further by seeking the help and intercession of the United Nations and International Red Crescent (Red Cross counterpart in Arab nations) on behalf of these entrapped workers. International pressure must be brought to bear on foreign employers to release their domestic help and other household workers in times of war or major calamities.
Perhaps, the POEA can also look into revising all job contracts to include a clause stating that the confiscation of passports and entrapment of workers in times of war or any armed conflict is universally recognized as a violation of human rights, and therefore are deemed prohibited under Philippine laws and existing UN and ILO conventions on migrant workers’ rights.
For those who wish to relay information about OFWs who are being prevented from living Lebanon by their employers, please get in touch with OWWA or the DFA right away. You can check for updates on the Lebanon crisis by visiting www.dfa.gov.ph. You can also call my office at 3391768 and look for Lynn or Ricci or e-mail me directly at email@example.com.
Though it may be true that quite a lot of OFWs prefer to stay on in Lebanon despite the war, I think we can safely say that we also have OFWs who wish nothing more than to leave for home, but are barred from doing so by their own employers. In which case, let’s hope our embassy repatriation teams would be able to rescue these OFWs so that they can come home to their anxious families.