At least 84 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are still reportedly stranded in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. They are among the 100 OFWs who were forced to live under a bridge in Al-khandawa district after fleeing from their abusive employers.
By ACE ALEGRE
Posted by Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 2, February 10-16, 2008
At least 84 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are still reportedly stranded in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
Reportedly being neglected by the RP consulate there, the stranded OFWs which include 10 women and two children were among the more than 100 OFWs who were forced to live under a bridge in Al-khandara district after fleeing from their abusive employers, Migrante-Philippines Chairperson Connie Bragas-Regalado said.
The 84 OFWs, some of them women victims of sexual harassments, recently set up camp outside the RP consulate as part of their bid to be returned to the Philippines immediately.
“It’s deplorable that RP Consul General Ezzedin Tago and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) have neglected them for this long,” Regalado said.
Regalado urged the DFA and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) to act with haste to ensure their immediate repatriation to the Philippines. She said that
part of the P100-million Emergency Repatriation Fund ($2.46 million, based on an exchange rate of P40.65 per US dollar) under the OWWA could be used to help the stranded workers.
For its part, Migrante-Saudi Arabia said that there are 179 OFWs stranded in Jeddah as of February 6. This includes 26 women (two of whom are pregnant), three children, 63 who are at the Consulate’s welfare center and 16 drivers from the Al-Yami transport.
Regalado quoted 29-year old domestic helper Sarah Masukat from South Cotabato, “Gusto ko nang makauwi kasi kawawa naman ang baby ko. Ang hirap dito, maalikabok, malamig.” (I want to go home because I pity my baby. It is hard here because it is dusty and cold.) Masukat was among those who was forced to live under the bridge while fleeing away from her employer. She is three months pregnant, said Regalado.
Masukat arrived in Jeddah in March 2004 and she ran away from her employer in December 2004. Migrante claimed she is a victim of contract substitution as her salary was reduced from Saudi Riyal (SR) 750 to SR600. She was also not paid her salary for eight months.
Reiterating the need to re-think the labor export policy, Regalado said, “There will always be a cycle of `stranded OFWs’ in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere because of the treatment of OFWs as commodities for export.” (Bulatlat.com)