Overseas Filipinos targets of SARS-related discrimination



Overseas Filipino Workers blast Filipino posts abroad for inaction over SARS-related discrimination

Overseas Filipino workers charge that in the midst of the SARS-crisis, Philippine posts abroad are not doing anything to stem the tide of racism and discrimination cloaked under SARS.
"Due to SARS, job loss and intensified discrimination are things Filipino workers now face. But in response, Philippine consulates and embassies are abroad are doing very little, if anything, to ensure our workers rights are protected," says Maita Santiago, Migrante International Secretary-General at a press conference this morning at Kapihan sa Cypress in Quezon City. Also at the prescon were Cecilia Diocson of the Filipino Nurses Support Group in Canada and Chat Dimaano of Kasamma-Ko, an alliance of Filipino groups in Korea.
Diocson said that in Toronto, Filipino hotel workers and others in the service industry were hard hit by the World Health`s organization recent travel ban to that city."The city of Toronto lost around Cdn$25 million in revenue because two international conferences were cancelled in response to the WHO announcement. For Filipinos who work in hotels, restaurants, retail stores and other tourism-dependent industries, the conference cancellations also meant less income because they were called in to work fewer days," she said. There are an estimated 250,000 Filipinos in Toronto.
Diocson also expressed concern over how some Filipino applicants are being turned down for interviews by Canadian employers for fear over SARS."Increasingly, SARS is used to validate discrimination and racism against Filipinos and other Asians. We are already among Canada`s low-wage earners. With SARS, our marginalization and exploitation is intensified," she said. Diocson is also a delegate to Kilusang Mayo Uno`s International Solidarity Affair.
She added, "as in the past, Philippine consulates and the embassy in Canada have not said anything to protest these attacks against Filipino workers."For Filipinos in Korea, an alliance of Filipino groups there expressed concern about how prepared Filipinos will be if SARS becomes more predominant in that country.
"Most Filipinos in Korea are undocumented. This means they have no adequate medical coverage and so even before SARS, their health needs were already a big problem. If SARS becomes more common, Filipino workers in South Korea will also be worse off," said Chat Dimaano, Kasamma-Ko spokesperson.
"For some Filipinos who returned from vacation, their employers put them on a 45 day quarantine period without pay. Imagine, you come back to Italy to work but instead, you`re forced to endure 1 1/2 months without pay," said Flores who is also spokesperson of Umangat, a Filipino workers` group in Rome. Umangat is a member organization of Migrante International.
"Mas malala pa, the Philippine embassy is doing nothing to confront these discriminatory attacks against our rights," she said. For their part, Filipino workers in Hong Kong decried how many foreign domestic helpers were not allowed by their employers to go out for their days off. "But when it comes to going to the market or running errands during work-days, employers still allow the FDHs outside. Clearly, the refusal to let them out on their days-off because of SARS is unfounded. We have cases where the domestic helper is forced to stay home while the entire family goes out to watch a football game in the stadium," she said.
Cunanan also criticized the Consulate`s reduction of the number of days they are open because it has only resulted in the Consulate being more congested and thus, even more prone to FDHs becoming sick. Out of more than an estimated 1,500 SARS cases in Hong Kong, only around 10 are FDHs, she said.
For its part, Migrante International agreed with FORWARD in noting that SARS means that all the more, the rights and welfare of overseas Filipinos must be ensured.Santiago also blasted the Arroyo administration for fueling the stereotype that OFWs are SARS carriers via the President`s message that OFWs should refrain from coming home.


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