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Quarantine order sparks concern among OFWs in Russia

06 March 2020

By Vir B. Lumicao
 
Philippine culture was the highlight in this festival in Russia
Filipinos in Russia have reacted warily to a warning by the Philippine embassy in Moscow to strictly observe a 14-day self-quarantine imposed by the authorities on new arrivals from China, including Hong Kong and Macau, Italy, South Korea and Iran.

The warning sparked concern because most of the Filipinos who are there had come from Hong Kong, China or Macau. Most are also working illegally, as Russia does not issue domestic worker visas to foreigners.

The measure was imposed by local authorities after a Russian who returned to Moscow recently from a trip to Italy tested positive for Covid-19 on Mar 2, according to a report by Novosti Press Agency.


“Nakikiusap po kami sa Filipino Community na i-share ang aming advisory lalo na sa mga bagong dating sa Russia. Sundin po natin ang home quarantine,” Ambassador Carlos Soreta said in a Facebook post on Wednesday, Mar 4.

His message accompanied an advisory he issued on Feb 28 in which he warned Filipinos in Russia to stay at home during the 14-day quarantine period or risk being deported.

Soreta said Russian doctors pay daily visits to addresses of the new arrivals to check on their health.


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“Hindi po ibig sabihin na puwede nang lumabas ng bahay kung hindi pa tapos ang 14 na araw. Dapat na makipagtulungan sa mga otoridad ng Russia. Ang paglabag sa quarantine…ay maaaring maging grounds for deportation,” he warned.

The head of the Philippine mission was not mincing words. On Feb 28, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said city authorities were to deport 88 people who violated the city's self-isolation orders after returning from China.

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Sobyanin said the 88 had been had identified. The Russian capital is using a facial recognition network to enforce the quarantine. The mayor did not identify the nationality of the new arrivals.

Soreta’s warning was echoed by many in the Filipino community.
 
Filipinos enjoying a sunny day in Moscow
One worker, Jess Plaza, urged her fellow migrant Filipinos to be doubly careful and advised them to avoid going out as the authorities have become strict.
“Totoo yung nangangatok sila sa bahay-bahay. Para i-confirm kung Chinese or Korean ka. Pero syempre alam nyo naman ang problema nating mga Pinoy dito. Oo nga, hindi tayo Chinese or Korean pero sa visa tayo may problema,” Plaza said.

“Mas mainam na mag-ingat po tayong lahat, lalo na sa walang papel,” Plaza said.

But how they could avoid detection during a surprise home visit was not made clear.

Filipino domestic workers there are mostly on tourist or business visas obtained by illegal recruiters from Russian embassies or consulates where they used to work. That’s because Russia does not issue domestic worker visas, but is quite liberal with issuing visitor or business visas to Filipinos who end up doing domestic work in the country.  

To legitimize the stay of thousands of Filipinos now working there, Manila has to forge a bilateral labor agreement with Moscow first.

On Feb 22, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III announced in a press release that he expects a BLA will be signed with Russia in the near future.

A few cheered, but most of the migrant workers there greeted Bello’s statement with doubt, some commenting that he had been saying that for the past three years. 
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