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‘Xenophobia is alive and well in Bermuda’

Filipinos in Bermuda are treated like “indentured servants”, taken advantage of, and discriminated against because of their nationality.

This according to sources who spoke with The Royal Gazette following a recent case in which a Bermudian man was charged with racially harassing and assaulting a Filipino. Although the case has yet to go to trial, xenophobia, said one Filipina woman, is alive and well in Bermuda.

Despite living on the Island for 14 years with her Bermudian husband, the woman, who asked to remain anonymous, said she has faced abuse from the day she arrived.

“They say things like, ‘You're in Bermuda just to earn dollars.' In other words, they're trying to tell me that I am just using my husband so I can work. Honestly, when my husband came to my country to marry me, I had no idea what my life would be like in Bermuda.”

Life on the Island, she came to find out, would be more difficult than she anticipated.

“When I first came to Bermuda people had been telling me directly in my face that because I am a foreigner in Bermuda, they don't like me. The only thing I could do was go home and cry to my husband, the Bermudian man that I married, because it hurts, right? It really hurts.”

She pointed out that she is targeted not because she is a foreigner, but because she is Filipina. Working in a restaurant and dealing with customers every day, she said, puts her directly in the line of xenophobic fire. She said she was last harassed on Monday morning, just hours before speaking with The Royal Gazette.

“Even until today, even here [at my workplace]. [Americans that marry a Bermudian don't have] the same problems we have. They don't. Those that haven't been to my country, they think we are very poor, that we are like beggars back home. We don't experience this and that, and they look down on us. That is the reason why, I think.”

But after so much abuse, she said she had learned how to deal with the xenophobic attitudes she faces.

“The biggest problem we have is black women. I really don't have problems with the guys, but the women in particular, I do. For what reason? I don't know.

“What happens now is that I've learned to fight back. Sometimes I just look at them, don't say anything. But then it's like I can't handle it no more, so I have to say something and let them know that I married a Bermudian, so whatever rights they have, I have the same, only I don't get to vote.”

Even then, said one concerned Bermudian man close to the Filipino community, those rights are not often extended to foreign workers.

While Filipinos face cultural xenophobia, he pointed out, they also face xenophobia in the workplace, with landlords, and by staff at Workforce Development, whom he said will often take the Bermudian's version of events at face value.

“Some work contracts Filipinos are hired under ... They're treated as indentured servants,” said the man, who also wished to remain anonymous due to threats he has received in the past for helping Filipinos in Bermuda.

“In most cases you have mothers that have come here to do a job — come half way around the world, leaving their own children — that a Bermudian won't do, under conditions a Bermudian won't work under, for a wage a Bermudian won't work for. And somebody has to step in and help them.”

Filipinos are not likely to seek help from the Government, and Bermudian employers and landlords know this, said the man. Coming from the Philippines, where corruption is rife, they are naive of the rights they have in Bermuda, and that there are resources available to them to deal with such matters.

“When they do go to the Department of Immigration, they don't know how to deal with it because of the corruption in the Philippines. They ask, ‘How much is it going to cost us? How much do we have to pay the official?' Over there, [corruption] is very real, it's done in a way where everybody needs to be greased.”

The man pointed to two restaurants in Bermuda where Filipino workers are taken advantage of, “squeezed for every dime”, denied wages and denied tips the restaurant is legally obliged to share with them.

“His [the restaurant owner's] comment, like lots of others, is: ‘If you don't do what I tell you, pack up your bags and go home.' When you consider that most of them are here supporting their families, working menial jobs, [it's wrong.] I know of nannies that are here that have college degrees. They can earn more money here as a nanny and they're paying for three of their siblings going to college.”

Although the first Filipinos came to Bermuda in the late 1600s, the man said ignorance — along with intolerance — remains a primary factor in driving xenophobia against a “very generous”, “very docile” people.

“The last time the Filipinos were in the Bermuda Day Parade, they did a dance to ‘Manila Girl.' And there was a family of people, and a number of women there were shouting: ‘Go home, vanilla girl.' They weren't even hearing what was being sung.”

Photo by Glenn Tucker Anti-Filipino graffiti has been placed along certian areas of the railway trail in Paget writen in marker at the Ess Hill Belco Substaion, pictured, at the bus stop before Modern Mart grocery store, and at the juction of the raiway trail and Tankfield Hill.

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Published June 10, 2014 at 9:00 am (Updated June 10, 2014 at 12:56 am)

‘Xenophobia is alive and well in Bermuda’

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