Philippines stops sending workers to Qatar, fearing food riots

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Empty shelves in a supermarket in Doha, Qatar, seen on June 6.

The Philippines on June 6 blocked the deployment of new overseas workers to Qatar as the gas-rich Gulf state started grappling with a diplomatic crisis after its neighbours cut ties with Doha.

Labour Secretary Silvestre Bello said that processing of new applications would remain temporarily suspended as the government awaits “further developments” in Qatar. However, he noted that Filipinos who have job contracts in Qatar will be allowed to go there.

The ban would be in place until the government in Manila has completed its assessment of the situation in Qatar after rumours spread the country would run out of food supplies and because of safety concerns as such a situation – in the worst case – could result in food riots.

There have been reports that residents in Qatar are swarming local supermarkets in fear of a sudden food shortage sparked by the ban. Qatar depends heavily on its neighbours for most of the food that it eats, which typically arrives by truck from places such as Saudi Arabia or by air. But with all air traffic from its Gulf neighbours halted, those supply lines for Qatar are cut.

There have also been reports about a chaos at Qatar’s international airport with hundreds of passengers stranded and at land borders after the neighbouring countries cut travel links.

“We are foreseeing a possible problem in Qatar,” Bello told a news conference.

He said there were currently 141,000 documented Filipino workers in Qatar as of last year, but the total number could surpass 200,000 if those without proper documents are counted. Filipinos form the fourth-largest group of migrant workers in Qatar, behind workers from India, Nepal and Bangladesh.

Qatar Airways flights heading to Europe and North Africa need to avoid Saudi, UAE and Bahrain airspace. (Click to enlarge)

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesman said the government was concerned about the possible “ripple effects” of the Qatar rift on workers in other Gulf countries. Overall, around two million Filipinos are working in the Middle East, most of them in Saudi Arabia (over one million) and in the United Arab Emirates (680,000).

Meanwhile, Thailand is also assessing the possible fallout from the Qatar crisis, primarily because of its role as coordinator of the next ASEAN-Gulf Cooperation Council minister’s meeting later this year.

According to Thai Foreign Minister Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai, the impact from the crisis would be “minimal” and relations between Thailand and Qatar would not be affected. However, he said would affect exports and travel to or via Qatar.

The minister did not mention Thai migrant workers in Qatar, which number an estimated 4,500 (latest available data as of May 2016) who mostly work in the construction industry and in the service business and around 200 for Qatar Airways. However, an agreement entered in 2013 between the two countries to send up to 30,000 Thai workers to Qatar could be put on hold, as well as similar agreements Qatar has with Cambodia and Indonesia

Of other ASEAN nations, there are 43,000 indonesians, 4,900 Malaysians, 2,000 Vietnamese and 20 Bruneians living and working in Qatar. No data exists for Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar.

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[caption id="attachment_29944" align="alignleft" width="300"] Empty shelves in a supermarket in Doha, Qatar, seen on June 6.[/caption] The Philippines on June 6 blocked the deployment of new overseas workers to Qatar as the gas-rich Gulf state started grappling with a diplomatic crisis after its neighbours cut ties with Doha. Labour Secretary Silvestre Bello said that processing of new applications would remain temporarily suspended as the government awaits "further developments" in Qatar. However, he noted that Filipinos who have job contracts in Qatar will be allowed to go there. The ban would be in place until the government in Manila has completed...

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Empty shelves in a supermarket in Doha, Qatar, seen on June 6.

The Philippines on June 6 blocked the deployment of new overseas workers to Qatar as the gas-rich Gulf state started grappling with a diplomatic crisis after its neighbours cut ties with Doha.

Labour Secretary Silvestre Bello said that processing of new applications would remain temporarily suspended as the government awaits “further developments” in Qatar. However, he noted that Filipinos who have job contracts in Qatar will be allowed to go there.

The ban would be in place until the government in Manila has completed its assessment of the situation in Qatar after rumours spread the country would run out of food supplies and because of safety concerns as such a situation – in the worst case – could result in food riots.

There have been reports that residents in Qatar are swarming local supermarkets in fear of a sudden food shortage sparked by the ban. Qatar depends heavily on its neighbours for most of the food that it eats, which typically arrives by truck from places such as Saudi Arabia or by air. But with all air traffic from its Gulf neighbours halted, those supply lines for Qatar are cut.

There have also been reports about a chaos at Qatar’s international airport with hundreds of passengers stranded and at land borders after the neighbouring countries cut travel links.

“We are foreseeing a possible problem in Qatar,” Bello told a news conference.

He said there were currently 141,000 documented Filipino workers in Qatar as of last year, but the total number could surpass 200,000 if those without proper documents are counted. Filipinos form the fourth-largest group of migrant workers in Qatar, behind workers from India, Nepal and Bangladesh.

Qatar Airways flights heading to Europe and North Africa need to avoid Saudi, UAE and Bahrain airspace. (Click to enlarge)

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesman said the government was concerned about the possible “ripple effects” of the Qatar rift on workers in other Gulf countries. Overall, around two million Filipinos are working in the Middle East, most of them in Saudi Arabia (over one million) and in the United Arab Emirates (680,000).

Meanwhile, Thailand is also assessing the possible fallout from the Qatar crisis, primarily because of its role as coordinator of the next ASEAN-Gulf Cooperation Council minister’s meeting later this year.

According to Thai Foreign Minister Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai, the impact from the crisis would be “minimal” and relations between Thailand and Qatar would not be affected. However, he said would affect exports and travel to or via Qatar.

The minister did not mention Thai migrant workers in Qatar, which number an estimated 4,500 (latest available data as of May 2016) who mostly work in the construction industry and in the service business and around 200 for Qatar Airways. However, an agreement entered in 2013 between the two countries to send up to 30,000 Thai workers to Qatar could be put on hold, as well as similar agreements Qatar has with Cambodia and Indonesia

Of other ASEAN nations, there are 43,000 indonesians, 4,900 Malaysians, 2,000 Vietnamese and 20 Bruneians living and working in Qatar. No data exists for Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar.

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