Vietnam reviews Middle East labor count amid US-Iran tension

By Doan Loan, Nguyen Quy   January 8, 2020 | 03:44 am PT
Vietnam reviews Middle East labor count amid US-Iran tension
People celebrate in the streets of Tehran after Iran launched missiles at U.S.-led forces in Iraq, January 8, 2020. Photo by WANA/Nazanin Tabatabaee via Reuters.
The labor ministry is gathering statistics on Vietnamese workers in the Middle East as the U.S.-Iran tension escalates.

The Department of Overseas Labor Management under the Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs on Wednesday asked businesses supplying Vietnamese workers to countries in the Middle East to make available official figures.

The department suggested reviewing the number of Vietnamese laborers in countries like the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait and Bahrain, all to be heavily affected by escalating tensions between the U.S. and Iran following the U.S. slaying of Iranian major general Qasem Soleimani.

In the worst case, the Vietnamese government could help evacuate workers from the region.

The number of Vietnamese employees in the region has proven volatile in recent years, while businesses sending people to work abroad have rarely updated data and reported to state management agencies, the department said.

Some businesses said Vietnamese laborers flocking to the Middle East to seek work have been on the decrease in recent years due to low income and harsh conditions. The workers mainly engaged in construction and domestic jobs.

In 2019, Vietnamese businesses sent 1,101 workers, including 806 women, to work in Saudi Arabia.

About 147,387 Vietnamese laborers went abroad in 2019, a 3.2 percent increase over the previous year.

On Wednesday, Iran fired 22 missiles at Iraqi bases used by the U.S. military, AFP reported. It comes days after U.S. President Donald Trump ordered a strike that killed Iran's top general Soleimani. U.S. and Iraqi sources said there were no known casualties as a result of the missile attacks.

Other Asian nations with large populations of expatriate labor are ready to evacuate their citizens in Iran and Iraq to safe areas in case violence breaks out.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the military to prepare to deploy its aircraft and ships "at a moment’s notice" to evacuate thousands of Filipino workers in Iraq and Iran while South Korean government ministries have discussed strengthening protection for the nearly 1,900 South Koreans working in the Middle East.

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