Philippines partially lifts Qatar workers ban

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Construction workers are pictured on a building site on May 9, 2014 in Doha, QatarImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Qatar is hugely reliant on foreign workers for its construction projects

The Philippines has partially lifted the ban on overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) going to Qatar, a day after it was imposed.

The ban was temporarily introduced 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.

OFWs on contracts, wishing to return to Qatar or new workers with an overseas employment certificate can travel.

The department of labour and employment said OFWs whose papers are still being processed remained banned.

Labour Secretary, Silvestre Bello said the processing of new applications would remain temporarily suspended while the government assessed the situation.

More than two million documented Filipinos work in the Middle East, with about 140,000 based in Qatar.

The government previously said it was concerned about the "ripple effect" of the crisis on its overseas foreign workers.

In an advisory notice the Philippine Embassy in Doha said it was continuing to monitor developments in the region and called on Filipinos to remain calm as it believed there was no immediate reason to be concerned about their safety in Qatar.

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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.

The Philippines central bank estimates the money sent back by its foreign workers last year was $26.9bn (£20.8bn), or about 10% of gross domestic product.

The State of Qatar

Capital: Doha

  • 2.7 million Population

  • 11,437 sq km Area

  • Arabic Language

  • Islam Religion

  • 78.5 Life expectancy

  • Riyal Currency

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

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

The Philippine Business Council in Qatar told the BBC it is "business as usual" for Filipinos working in Qatar.

"Nothing has changed in people's day-to-day activities and routines," it said in an emailed statement. "Sensationalist news however causes undue concern to families back in the Philippines".

Qatar is heavily dependent on foreign workers. Nearly 90% of its 2.5 million population is estimated to be from overseas , led by India, Nepal and Bangladesh.