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Philippines halts deployment of workers to Saudi Arabia after reports they were made to pay for COVID-19 tests

Philippines halts deployment of workers to Saudi Arabia after reports they were made to pay for COVID-19 tests

Repatriated Overseas Filipino Workers arrive at an airport, in Pasay City, Metro Manila, Philippines on May 26, 2020. (File photo: REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez)

MANILA: The Philippines has suspended the deployment of workers to Saudi Arabia after it received reports that their employers and recruiters were making them pay for COVID-19 testing, quarantine and insurance upon arrival in the kingdom.

Labour Secretary Silvestre Bello said in an order on Thursday (May 27) that his department will issue an official statement on resumption of deployment "after this matter has been clarified accordingly".

It was not immediately clear how many Filipinos bound for Saudi Arabia would be directly affected.

Saudi Arabia was the most preferred destination of overseas Filipino workers in 2019, government data showed, hosting one out of five Filipinos who landed jobs abroad during that year.

More than a million Filipinos work in Saudi Arabia, many in construction or as domestic helpers or nurses.

Saudi Arabia's embassy in Manila did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment outside office hours.

Filipinos in Saudi Arabia sent home US$1.8 billion in remittances in 2020, making it an important source of foreign exchange inflows, a key driver of Philippines' consumption-led economy.

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Source: Reuters

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