Workers relieved as Philippines lifts Saudi Arabia travel ban

Employers in the kingdom will cover the costs of hotel quarantine

Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila. The Philippines had banned migrant workers from travelling to Saudi Arabia over concerns they would be faced with large bills for hotel quarantine. Reuters 
Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila. The Philippines had banned migrant workers from travelling to Saudi Arabia over concerns they would be faced with large bills for hotel quarantine. Reuters 

Workers from the Philippines can return to Saudi Arabia after employers in the kingdom agreed to cover quarantine costs.

Hundreds of Filipino workers were left stranded at Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport on Friday after the government brought in a travel ban amid confusion over who would pay for the mandatory hotel stay.

The institutional quarantine can cost $3,500, about a year’s salary for a migrant worker.

The Philippine Labour Secretary, Silvestre Bello, lifted the travel ban after employers in Saudi Arabia agreed to pay for quarantine for all workers.

Abdullah Al Bussairy, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the Philippines, assured Mr Bello that employers of Filipino workers would cover all costs for Covid-19 measures.

The minister apologised for the “inconvenience and momentary anguish” the ban caused but said the decision was in the workers' best interests.

Saudi Arabia employs more than a million workers from the Philippines.

Last year, workers sent home an estimated $1.8 billion in remittances.

“We cannot afford to spend our whole year’s salary on quarantine in a hotel for a week and any healthcare charges related to Covid-19,” said Ms Lily, a Filipina working in Jeddah.

"We would not be able to send money home to support our family, let alone support ourselves here.

“I am happy my people can return to Saudi and they will have a regular income again. The situation wasn’t good for any of us."

The General Authority of Civil Aviation has asked all airlines operating flights to Saudi Arabia to register data on vaccinated passengers, including non-Saudis and those travelling from safe countries.

Travellers must enter quarantine in the city in which they arrive at their own expense, with exceptions in this case.

They will be allowed to leave the premises if their PCR test is negative after seven days.

Saudi Arabia reopened its borders for vaccinated citizens and residents on May 17.

Updated: June 1, 2021 12:47 AM

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