Filipino domestic workers still come to Egypt to work, despite warnings from the Philippine government
CAIRO: There are thought to be 4,178 Filipinos currently living in Egypt, of which 2,300 are said to have complete travel papers; the other 1,878 are thought to be illegal immigrants.
The risks of working in Egypt are high and the chances of getting caught without a visa make ordinary tasks such as taking a bus journey or walking the street a dangerous prospect.
Recently, nine Filipino women were arrested and jailed in Cairo as the authorities continued to search for illegal immigrants and undocumented workers. Egyptian police claim that a release could only be permitted if there were confirmed plane tickets for their return trip to Manila. Otherwise, the women remain imprisoned indefinitely.
Domestic workers in Cairo can earn between $400 to $600 a month, earning enough to send money home to help support families and relatives who are unable to earn as much for their labor. In some cases Filipino’s get paid better wages than Egyptian workers, but the price is often high as many find them selves stranded without a visa.
Malaya, 32, who has worked for an Egyptian family for several years, claims there is a reason why so many Filipino workers find themselves in Egypt without a work visa.
“What often happens is a family will employ someone from the Philippines under the promise of securing an Egyptian work visa, but in 30 days the tourist visa runs out and the family decide not to fund a new work visa. Often [Fillipino workers] are then forced to go home without getting paid; some risk staying and trying to get work elsewhere, says Malaya.
“The reason work is so important is because families and children, in the Philippines, need to receive money that is earned from working; this is the reason it is difficult to return home with no money.
Malaya moved to Egypt to work because her business in the Philippines failed to bring in enough money. The importance of supporting her family meant that domestic work would be required to earn enough money to send home.
Last year, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration considered enacting a selective ban on domestic workers going to the Middle East. The move is in response to the numerous incidents of abuse committed against Filipino domestic workers in the region.
“Abuse is not common but it happens. Often domestic workers are not allowed to leave the house where they work, they never see the male employer and remain indoors all day doing domestic duties. There are not so many stories of domestic abuse anymore and the embassy often helps in such cases, but the real danger is from imprisonment; many do not know the risks of life in Egypt without a visa.