Philippines keeps maid bans on Jordan, Lebanon

Political instability, abuse cited among reasons


Philippine labor officials said Sunday they were maintaining bans on sending Filipino workers to Lebanon and Jordan despite calls for them to be lifted.

The ban on Lebanon was kept due to continuing concerns over peace and order in that country while that on Jordan was kept in force after employers refused to comply with new conditions for hiring Filipinos.

Overseas employment administrator Jennifer Manalili said the department of foreign affairs had recommended the bans be maintained due to the "still volatile situation" in both countries.

"We cannot (lift the ban) due to the current peace and order condition," in Lebanon, she added.

However Filipino workers who already had employment contracts would be allowed to return home on holiday and then go back to work in those countries, said Labor Secretary Marianito Roque.

The Philippines imposed a ban on deployment of workers to both countries this year due to fighting in Lebanon and increased reports of Filipino domestic workers being abused in Jordan.

In July, the Philippines said it would lift the ban on Jordan provided employers agree to pay a minimum salary of $400 dollars, as they do in the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

However a senior official, who asked not to be named, said Jordanian employers had widely refused to pay the minimum salary required by the Philippines.

Last year the Philippine Department of Labor and Employment imposed a new minimum wage of $400 for Filipino maids working overseas.

Labor office records show that in January alone, as many as 150 Filipino workers were staying at a Philippine centre in Amman, Jordan complaining of abuse and maltreatment. Most of them were maids.

In January, Jordanian government figures showed there were as many as 15,000 Filipinos working in the country. Private agencies in the Philippines said as many 25,000 Filipinos worked in Lebanon last year.

An international human rights agency found that at least 95 migrant maids had died in Lebanon since January 2007, with 40 deaths classified by their embassies as suicides and 24 caused by falling from high buildings, often while trying to escape their employers.

“Domestic workers are dying in Lebanon at a rate of more than one per week,” said Nadim Houry, senior researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Many domestic workers are literally being driven to jump from balconies to escape their forced confinement.”

Some eight million Filipinos, or nearly 10 percent of the country's population, work abroad. Remittances they send home are a major pillar of the domestic economy and are expected to rise ten percent next year to reach $18.3 billion, according to the Philippine Central Bank.

Nearly half a million overseas Filipinos worked in the Middle East last year, making up 45 percent of all overseas workers, acccording to the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration.