By Dalila Mahdawi
Daily Star staff
Monday, December 08, 2008
BEIRUT: The Lebanese consul in Manila has said the Philippine and Lebanese governments should grant amnesty to 43,300 Filipinos who have defied a ban on working in Lebanon.
Manila introduced the ban in 2006 following the outbreak of the summer war between Israel and Lebanon, when it evacuated thousands of its citizens, and because of Lebanon’s poor working conditions for migrants workers.
Speaking on Friday to a Philippine newspaper, The Inquirer, Consul Joseph Assaad called the ban “counterproductive,” saying it had not prevented Filipinos from seeking work in Lebanon, mainly as domestic workers.
His comments came almost two weeks after the Phillipine Department of Foreign Affairs sought assistance from the Presidential Task Force against Illegal Recruitment.
According to Assaad, 16,140 Filipinos entered Lebanon in 2007, many circumventing the ban by traveling through third countries. From January to November 2008, 21,982 Filipinos entered Lebanon, he said.
“This is really unfortunate because they are in Lebanon as undocumented workers … [and are not registered] with the Philippine Embassy,” Assaad said. “I’m calling on our government and the Department of Foreign Affairs to lift this ban. It’s illogical and it’s counterproductive,” he said.
Manila should also revoke the ban to allow undocumented Filipinos to register with the Phillipine Labor Office in Beirut and obtain insurance, Assaad said, adding that Lebanon was experiencing an economic “boom” and was in need of nurses and construction workers.
Manila should also give amnesty to all workers, employers, recruitment agencies and immigration officers that had defied the ban, Assaad added.
There are an estimated 25,000 documented Filipinos working in Lebanon. Ethiopia and Sri Lanka also have substantial numbers of migrant workers in Lebanon, and have likewise imposed travel restrictions on their citizens because of poor working conditions.
Although there are some 200,000 migrant workers in Lebanon, none are protected by Lebanese labor laws, leaving them vulnerable to abuse.