Out of his comfort zone, an American who runs a record label in California has spent the last four years helping Filipino domestic workers in Saudi Arabia who suffered abuse from their employers.
According to Karl Frederick Anderson, he started on this personal mission when a Filipina he personally knew experienced abuse while working in the Kingdom.
"After I rescued the first worker, another one was referred to me and another,” Anderson shared via email.
"There are now approximately 40 workers in two groups handling cases. It is well over 500 that have been helped.”
For his mission, Anderson set up the Facebook page “Filipino Domestic Worker Abuse in Saudi Arabia,” which aims to "create awareness of a serious problem of abuse and human trafficking of Filipino workers in Saudi Arabia and offer contacts to those who are being abused."
"I receive requests about abused workers daily. There is not a day that goes by that we are not working on a case or having inquiries about helping abused workers," Anderson said.
For Anderson, the only way to stop the abuse is to stop sending foreign household service workers (HSWs) to Saudi Arabia.
"I really feel the only way to stop the abuse of Filipino workers is to ban sending workers there," he said. "The abuse they suffer and how they are treated is cultural."
Anderson added that sexual abuse and physical torture are the usual abuses suffered by foreign domestic helpers in Saudi Arabia.
"Many workers are sexually abused or raped by their employers. Sometimes it will be the son who is the sexual abuser, not the baba. Most of the physical abuse and beating are done, on the other hand, by the madam," he said.
He also said that "slapping and spitting on the worker is common."
"I have seen many workers who were beaten with an electrical cord, stick, or the black rope that ties the headdress on the man," Anderson narrated. "I have had workers that were thrown downstairs and burned with hot irons."
And then there are also the cases of non-payment of wages.
"Many workers will not be paid for four to eight months or more," Anderson said. "There will be cases, too, where the employer will not let the worker leave or go home after the end of the contract."
These problems, he said, are aggravated when a Filipino HSW would run away from her employer and work for another.
"When they turn themselves in, they may find that the employer has placed a huroob on their iqama as a runaway to block them from going home. It is also not uncommon for a worker to have false charges placed against them to make it difficult for them to leave," Anderson said.
Anderson said he is glad that the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) is not remiss in its duties in assisting abused Filipino workers in Saudi Arabia.
"I have found that POLO is handling cases faster and has been more responsive to requests for help," he said.
He, however, added: "But once again it is only helping those that are abused, not stopping workers from being abused. I just do not feel the pattern of abuse will change."
Anderson maintained that the only way to stop the abuse is by banning the deployment of Filipino maids to Saudi Arabia. "Anything less and you will just be sending workers abroad to suffer the same," he said. —KBK/KVD, GMA News