Philippines stops sending workers to Qatar

Nations cut ties with Qatar




The Philippines said Tuesday it would not send any more workers to Qatar until the fallout from a regional political crisis became clear.

Several Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, have severed diplomatic relations with Qatar. Saudi Arabia has blocked all land, sea and air routes to Qatar, and the UAE has closed its airports and harbors to Qatari flights and shipping.

The Arab states have accused their neighbor of supporting terrorism and destabilizing the region. Qatar says the claims are "unjustified" and "baseless."

The gas-rich state relies heavily on migrant workers to keep its economy ticking over. Thousands have been hired to build stadiums and other facilities for the Qatar 2022 soccer World Cup.

In a statement, the Philippines government said it was concerned about the fate of 140,000 Filipinos workers already in Qatar, particularly given suggestions that the blockade could lead to food shortages.

"We know for a fact Qatar does not produce it own food. If anything happens and they ran out of food and food riots take place definitely our [foreign workers] will be the first victims," said Silvestre Bello, head of the Philippine Department of Labor and Employment, in a statement.

Related: Arab blockade is nightmare for Qatar Airways

Qatar has a population of just over 2.2 million but most of the people living there are foreign nationals. There are about 650,000 Indians in Qatar, for example.

The small country has used its huge oil and gas wealth to become an economic powerhouse. It's home to one of the region's biggest airlines, Qatar Airways. It has also built up a huge global portfolio of investments.

Qatar has repeatedly faced criticism for alleged support of the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist group considered a terrorist organization by Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Analysts say the unprecedented diplomatic rift is also driven by the belief that Qatar is too closely aligned with Iran.

The Philippine government said the suspension applied to newly-hired and returning Filipino workers.

"Even those who are ready to go we have to temporary suspend for their own protection because we have to assess the situation first before we could allow again the deployment of our migrant workers," Bello said. "This is for their own protection."

CNNMoney (Dubai) First published June 6, 2017: 8:33 AM ET


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