Stranded OFWs in Jeddah had to Camp Out Under Bridge to be Repatriated

Migrante opposed this rule, saying that “evidently the Government is abdicating its responsibility to repatriate stranded and distressed OFWs and leaves them to the mercy of private recruitment agencies.”

John Monterona, Migrante Middle-East Regional Coordinator, said that that these private recruitment agencies don’t have the means or legal identity to represent its deployed workers before the host government, which make them incapable of facilitating the repatriation of stranded and distressed OFWs.

Grief and anxiety

While the stranded OFWs had to endure a lot with little or no means, their families back home suffered in grief and anxiety. Tears flowed easily whenever families of stranded OFW remembered their love ones in Jeddah.

Benilda and Irene, mother and wife of Delius, respectively, could not control their emotions when asked about Delius. Delius, who worked as a welder, left his employer after complaining of contract substitution and non-payment of his salary for three months. He was also not entitled to overtime pay and health insurance, recounted his mother Benilda whose eyes were already swollen from crying.

“Gusto lang ng anak ko makauwi na,” (All my son wanted now is to be able to go home.) said Benilda while covering half of her face with a handkerchief when crying. She admitted that they depended on Delius financially because he is her eldest child. But he could not even afford to shoulder the airfare for his return. And since November last year, Delius has stopped sending money to his family.

“Sana po aksyunan ng gobyerno, maawa naman po kayo sa kanila,” (I hope the government would act. Please pity him.) pleaded Irene, who was also crying.

Jennifer, wife of Jay Ramos, another stranded OFW, was concerned about her husband’s health. She was crying when she related that Jay became ill while living under the bridge because they only lived in tents.

Losing her patience over the inaction of the government on Joel’s repatriation, Anita has said that if her relatives would agree, they would bring Fe’s body in front of the DFA office in Manila and hold their wake there to pressure the government.

No funds?

Juna said Joel and other stranded OFWs have asked for the consulate’s help but were told that they should instead ask assistance from the Department of Foreign Affairs’ (DFA).

Families of Joel, Jay Ramos and Delius Anastacio coordinated with Migrante International in Quezon City. Migrante accompanied them to the DFA for a dialogue on Feb. 13.

Meanwhile, former Consul General Pendosina N. Lomondot said the last group of 75, all male, departed Friday on board a Gulf Air flight. The updated report from the consulate stated that 922 OFWs have been repatriated.

“I’m very thankful to the officials of Saudi Arabia for their gesture of compassion in accommodating our request for the repatriation of our stranded compatriots,” said Lomondot, noting that the repatriation expenses for all the stranded Filipinos were shouldered by the Saudi government.

The DFA, he said, spent at least $25,000 for food, amenities and transportation. Lomondot however was silent on reports that the OWWA had been unable to provide the plane tickets requested by the consulate for the stranded Filipinos. An unidentified consulate official was quoted in media reports as saying, “Naubos daw ang kuwarta ng OWWA sa Lebanon.” (The funds of OWWA were said to have been all spent in Lebanon.)

In Manila, DFA Undersecretary for Special Concerns Rafael Seguis earlier lashed at Migrante for giving out the figure that there were 179 stranded OFWs, and that the consulate and the DFA “have neglected them for this long.”

“We never do anything right for Migrante. They are all talk. Why don’t they be the ones to talk to the Saudi Arabian government and help OFWs?” Seguis said as quoted in reports.

Aside from passing on their responsibility, Migrante chairperson Connie Bragas-Regalado argued that Seguis’s statement only made them look defensive. “Paano, ‘di sila kumikilos ‘pag walang pressure (sa kanila),” (Because they never act unless pressured to do so.) she said.

Noting that the issue of ‘stranded OFWs’ is a perennial one in Saudi Arabia, Migrante leaders said that concrete steps must be taken by the Arroyo government to ensure that there would be no repeat of the situation where OFWs have to live under bridges so that they would be arrested, deported, and eventually be able to go home. (Bulatlat.com)

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