#Throwback2014: Issues, Challenges that Faced Overseas Pinoys in 2014

From violent uprisings to a killer virus, from racism to an alleged unfair new scheme at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, Pinoys abroad — as well as their families back home — faced a lot of issues and challenges in 2014. Here are some of the biggest stories over the past 12 months related to our overseas kababayans.

Uprisings: It had been a busy year for government-led repatriations, what with the violent political unrests in Thailand, Syria, Yemen, Libya, among others, as well as the outbreak of the deadly and dreaded Ebola virus in West Africa. But despite repeated appeals by the government, many had decided to stay overseas, choosing danger over possible unemployment or measly pay back home.

 Syrian rebels. Depending on who’s talking, the Filipino peacekeepers in Golan Heights who figured in a standoff with Syrian rebels were either heroes or cowards. Praised by the Philippine military, including by their commander in chief, President Benigno Aquino III, for their “greatest escape,” they were however accused by their foreign superior of breaking the chain of command when they defied order to remain in their posts.

Integrated Terminal Fee: A new scheme integrating airport terminal fee into ticket prices had pitted OFW groups with the Manila International Airport Authority, with the OFW groups winning via a court decision.

Ebola/MERS-CoV: If violent rebellions weren’t sending OFWs home or prompting the Philippine government to declare deployment bans, killer viruses were. Reunions, however, were delayed as some OFWs, particularly those coming from Ebola-hit West Africa, had to undergo a required 21-day quarantine period at a government facility upon arrival before they were sent home to their waiting families.

 Air tragedy. The crash of Malaysian Airlines flight 17, after allegedly being shot down by separatist rebels in Ukraine, became more heartbreaking to Filipinos after it was reported that a Filipino mother and her two sons were among the victims.

Missing Pinoy seafarers. As of last report, five of the 13 Filipino crew members of the ill-fated Korean fishing vessel Oryong 96, which sank off Bering Sea in Russia on December 1, remained unaccounted for. Five were confirmed dead while three were rescued.

High-profile crimes. Stories on overseas Pinoys took a turn to John Le Carre territory when US-based Ralph de Leon was convicted for alleged terror plot, while in Qatar three Filipinos were sentenced to death after being convicted for espionage and economic sabotage.

US immigration. US President Barack Obama’s “sweeping” immigration reform was welcomed by a lot of Filipinos, including Jose Antonio Vargas, a US-based, Pulitzer Prize-winning Filipino journalist who becomes the face of undocumented aliens in the US.

Racism, abuses. An ad for “discount maids and a “hate blog” in Singapore, as well as a textbook in Hong Kong branding Filipinos as maids, have made many Pinoy netizens cry “racism. Meanwhile, reports on OFWs being abused by their employers persisted in 2014, like the case Pahima Alagasi Palacasi, the 23-year-old Filipina domestic helper who was scalded by her employer in Saudi Arabia.

Tragic deaths: What’s sadder than Filipinos losing their lives abroad, whether due to accidents, crime, or punishment for their misdeeds? The deaths of seven Filipinos in two separate accidents on icy Alberta highways, the beheading of a Filipino construction worker by Libyan rebels, and the execution of Carlito Lana in Saudi Arabia were just some that hit the headlines in 2014.

(Source: KBK, GMA News)

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