Philippine Immigrants to the Middle East Weigh Safety, the Law and the Lure of Work

Philippine Immigrants to the Middle East Weigh Safety, the Law and the Lure of Work

Earlier this month, the Philippine government hinted that its four-year ban on Filipinos working in Iraq might be lifted before the year is up. In a July 15 statement, Assistant Foreign Secretary for Middle East and African Affairs Jesus Yabes cited the improving conditions in Baghdad as a reason to end the prohibition. The ban was put in place in 2004 by Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo following the abduction of a Filipino truck driver who was working in Iraq at the time.

Yabes' statement came just a month after a Filipino was killed and two others injured in a mortar attack on the Green Zone. With U.S. troop levels limited and the cost of Western contractors soaring, workers from poor countries like the Philippines are critical to sustain U.S. operations in Iraq. Indeed, Filipino labor is an important input for economies throughout the Middle East.

Nearly 10 percent of the population of the Philippines, a nation of 93 million, lives and works overseas. A report released in June by the Philippine National Statistics Office found that nearly half of all overseas Filipino workers are employed in Middle Eastern countries. They are among the growing numbers of Filipinos who are seeking employment in the region, spurred by government policies that promote overseas labor and their increasing disillusion with the job prospects in their home country.

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