Behind closed doors: Filipina workers trapped by the pandemic

Anushka Asthana talks to the journalist Corinne Redfern from The Fuller Project about the impact the pandemic has had on the thousands of Filipino women who are stranded overseas. The Philippine government says that approximately one third of its 10 million citizens overseas are women working in “elementary” jobs – a term widely interpreted as referring to domestic workers who are paid low wages to clean homes, cook meals and care for wealthy families, often under horrendous conditions. Human Rights Watch has long described migrant domestic workers, thousands of miles away from home and hidden out of sight in strangers’ houses, as one of the world’s most vulnerable demographics.

The UK issues approximately 23,000 visas to foreign domestic workers every year, half of whom come from the Philippines, according to reports. In the first two months of the coronavirus outbreak, more than half of the Filipino migrant workers surveyed in the UK had lost their jobs, according to a report compiled in June by Dr Ella Parry-Davies and the Kanlungan Filipino Consortium – a London-based consortium of grassroots organisations advocating for Filipino migrants’ rights. Corinne tells Anushka about Mimi (not her real name), a Filipino woman who works for a wealthy family in London who pay her just £5 an hour and asked her to continue to work during the first lockdown, which was illegal. Corinne also tells Anushka about Rowena, who is trapped in Bahrain by an employer who has sexually harassed her. Her boss has promised to pay for her flight home, but he hasn’t told her when, and so Rowena is currently unable to return to her daughter and her grandson in the Philippines.

Photograph: participants in an intensive housekeeping course at a training centre in Manila



Photograph: Veejay Villafranca/Getty Images

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