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Qatar faces labour crisis amid spat

The Philippines has temporarily banned its workers from travelling to Qatar after several Arab countries broke off diplomatic ties with the Gulf state. Qatar is being isolated by its neighbours who accuse it of supporting Islamist militants and Iran.

More than two million documented Filipinos work in the Middle East, with about 140,000 based in Qatar. The government said it was concerned about the “ripple effect” of the crisis on its overseas foreign workers. Philippines Labour Secretary Silvestre Bello said the ban would be in place until it completed an assessment of the situation.

“There are so many wild rumours going around, saying things are not going well there,” he said in a statement on Tuesday. Millions of Philippine citizens work abroad as domestic helpers, ship crew, construction workers and nurses among other jobs.

Many head to oil-rich Gulf countries like Saudi Arabia, which hosts nearly a million Filipinos, and Qatar. Philippines central bank estimates the money sent back by its foreign workers last year was $26.9 billion (Sh2.7 trillion), or about 10 per cent of gross domestic product.

The Philippine government said one of its main worries was a possible risk of food shortages in Qatar, which imports about 90 per cent of its produce.

On Monday, the Qatari government said it had taken all necessary measures to ensure life would continue as normal under the blockade and that there was no need to panic. –BBC

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