Duped Filipinos forced to beg for money on Qatar's streets
BY JOSETTE EMILY Z. DE JESUS
Nelson Ebreo left the Philippines late last year to work as a tile setter in Qatar, seeking to provide a good future for his three children, the eldest of whom is still in Grade III, and his wife. However, after months of receiving nothing from his employer, he ended up begging on the streets of Qatar and his family went hungry.
Ebreo was recruited by SML Human Resource Inc. and was promised a salary of US$500 a month. According to him, he was asking for a basic contract but the agency instead provided them an offer letter assuring them of jobs in Qatar.
Upon arrival in Qatar, he learned that there is no contract and the salary would be based on production. For two months of work, he was only paid QR800 each month which was lower than what was stipulated.
"We had to shoulder our food, and our water and electricity expenses would also be deducted from our salaries. If you got sick they wouldn’t bring you to the hospital. We had to fend for ourselves. They didn’t care about us. Our food cost as much as QR350, so we would be left with only QR450, and then there would be the many salary deductions. There would be nothing left for our families," Ebreo shared.
Because of his situation in Qatar, Ebreo was unable to provide money for his family. "My family went hungry because in the five months that we stayed in Qatar we were unable to send money to our families," he said.
Because of this, he decided to stop working and talked to his employer, saying that he wanted to go home. Unfortunately, his employer turned down his request and told him that he could only go home upon payment of US$1500, otherwise he would be imprisoned.
Ebreo, together with his colleagues Edwin Anonuevo and Larry Canlas, were forced to beg on the streets of Qatar to be able to feed themselves to survive as well as to buy plane tickets. There were also Filipinos who took pity on them and gave food and money.
They begged for food from nearby restaurants in Qatar. Ebreo shared that he never begged for food in the Philippines no matter how difficult life is at home.
"I remember one time when we were eating and Indians laughed at us. One Indian said, ‘They eat so many chickens, look how many bones there are.’ They didn’t know we were just picking them up," Ebreo said.
They were able to collect money, amounting to QR1,540, for buying their plane tickets. However, on Feb. 8, he was made to sign a waiver stating that he could not file complaints against the employer or agency. Furthermore, on the day of their flight which was supposed to be on Feb. 12, his passport was turned over to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and they were slapped with criminal charges for running away and stealing a generator and money. This prevented them from going home.
Because of what happened, he approached members of the media for help. He asked Delfin Montenegro of The Filipino Channel (TFC) and GMA 7 to facilitate in seeking assistance from the Philippine Embassy. Montenegro immediately acted and informed the OWWA of the current situation of Ebreo and his colleagues.
In addition, Manny Flores of GMA7 interviewed Ebreo about their situation. This alarmed SML, and the agency acted on the problems of Ebreo and his colleagues and talked to Jassim Decoration and Services Co. Both agencies compromised and agreed that SML would need to pay the employer the equivalent of the amount of passport fees that Ebreo and his colleagues needed to reimburse, or P4,500 for each of them.
Ebreo, along with his colleagues, went to the Philippine Embassy barefooted to seek financial help but the embassy turned them down. Finally, he and his colleagues were able to go home on April 9 with assistance from the Filipino community in Qatar.
"There are 2,500 recruitment agencies and some of these take advantage of our countrymen, some of whom come from remote areas. They apply and are charged fees which they borrow money from lending agencies for, money which they have to refund later on, and then when they get to their destination, they encounter problems such as these," Gina Esguerra of Migrante International said in Filipino.
Ebreo left the country to provide a better life for his family but because of what happened to him in Qatar, he decided to try finding a job here in Manila.
"I no longer yearn for a high salary. When I went abroad, it was because I was aspiring to earn more so that my family could experience a little comfort. But what happened was different, so I thought, it is better that I stay here," Ebreo shares. - Bulatlat.com