News

    Philippine Workers Flee Syria's Embattled Towns

    Repatriated domestic workers from the Philippines wait to return to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration halfway house where they will receive counseling after returning from conflict-torn Syria. February 28, 2012 at Ninoy Aquino International Airp
    Repatriated domestic workers from the Philippines wait to return to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration halfway house where they will receive counseling after returning from conflict-torn Syria. February 28, 2012 at Ninoy Aquino International Airp

    When violence in Syria escalated last year, the Philippine government ordered its citizens working there to return home, and more than 1,100 have. Reporter Simone Orendain met up with recent arrivals at Manila’s international airport to find out about their experiences.

    The line of chattering women pushing luggage trolleys is greeted by the jarring sounds of a remodeling project at the arrival lobby. This group of household workers have fled months of fighting in Syria’s most embattled cities.

    Marcami Abdul Hari worked for a family in Homs for nearly five years. The 21-year old says she stayed with the same family because they treated her like she was their daughter.

    “They were good people. They were good to me, but I came home because in Syria it is so scary, as in really scary," she said. "Everyone, everyone, even the older people and children, they are being killed.”

    On the streets of her neighborhood she saw people getting shot. Artillery razed her boss’s home and many others nearby.  

    Abdul Hari remembers the peaceful time before the conflict started.

    “Syria was beautiful. Then we saw all that fighting," she said. "It was really nice because soldiers did not enter the city. There was nothing bad there. Life was just quiet and happy.”

    When the violence escalated, Abdul Hari’s bosses packed up for Saudi Arabia. They took her to an agency for Filipino workers where she would get help to return home.  

    Not all workers are able to escape as easily. This week the government confirmed that one 23-year-old woman was killed by armed gangs while traveling on a road in Homs with her employer.   

    Marivic Pagbilao lived in Homs during the uprising, but her employer would not free her from her contract. One day, Pagbilao, 27, dodged a bullet while hanging laundry outside. She then decided to flee.

    “I had given notice to my boss but he would not let me leave," she said. "[My friend] gave me the number to the embassy so I called and found a contact there that would help me. I left on my own from Homs. Two hours to Damascus from Homs.”

    Another domestic worker in Homs, Rita Gonzaga, said the fighting made everyone in her household a virtual prisoner.

    “All we ate were potatoes because you could not leave," she said. "The shooting was right downstairs.  We were on the seventh floor and we could not even look out the window. One time we took a peek and a gun was pointed at us.”

    Gonzaga says the family she worked for moved from Homs to Damascus, but even there the violence was too much. Gonzaga says her recruitment agency forced her to stay by threatening her with being blacklisted if she left.

    “I went to the embassy and then really tried to convince my boss, begged her," she said. "Oh, I had just had enough!”

    Gonzaga did not give details of how she finally got away. But those assisting the workers say running away is not uncommon.

    Karen, a stress-debriefing counselor at the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, who asked to be only identified by her first name, says many of the women flee physical abuse and situations where their salary is withheld, sometimes for years.  

    For these workers, Karen says the conflict can be a blessing in disguise.

    “It is sort of like a blessing that because of the chaos their employers went abroad or went to other countries and they were left so they were able to go to the embassy and seek help," she said, "some of the cases were like that.”

    Because many workers in Syria are on overstayed visas or working illegally, the Philippine government has struggled to locate them. Officials are urging relatives to come forward and help officials find stranded workers.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora