A Saudi-based Filipino migrant group said that there are still 191 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) stranded in Jeddah alone, including 103 OFWs who originally camped out under a bridge in Jeddah since December 2007. The Philippine Consulate in Jeddah earlier reported that a total of 922 OFWs who were stranded in Saudi Arabia with no contracts and jobs have already been deported back to the Philippines.
BY AUBREY SC MAKILAN
Vol. VIII, No. 4, February 24-March 1, 2008
A Saudi-based Filipino migrant group said that there are still 191 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) stranded in Jeddah alone, including 103 OFWs who originally camped out under a bridge in Jeddah since December 2007.
The Philippine Consulate in Jeddah earlier reported that a total of 922 OFWs who were stranded in Saudi Arabia with no contracts and jobs have already been deported back to the Philippines.
But according to Migrante-Saudi Arabia chairperson Andrew Ociones, at least 103 stranded OFWs who camped out under Al Khandara Flyover in Jeddah are still in the Kingdom. Ociones said that only 23 women were confirmed repatriated, but the 80 women who were sent to the deportation facilities on February 10 still remain stranded. He added that of the 24 men who submitted themselves to ‘due process’ and were picked up at the Consulate, he said one was confirmed returned to his employer, 13 were transferred to the Deportation Facility in Riyadh and 10 were still inside Building 2 of the Deportation Facilities in Jeddah.
Handcuffed and still stranded
The migrant group expressed fears for the safety and well-being of 13 of the 24 men who signed the ‘legal deportation’ procedure initiated by Consul General Ezzedin Tago and were transferred to a Deportation facility in Riyadh in handcuffs.
Ociones was able to talk to James Malasig, one of the 13 transported to Riyadh. Malasig asked for assistance because they did not know where they would be taken and they were even handcuffed.]
“Wala naman ito sa usapan noon” (This was not among the things we talked about then), Ociones relayed Malasig’s statement referring to the terms they agreed upon with Tago before they accepted the ‘due process.’
Ociones said the 13 OFWs were placed at an 8 x 15-meter room in the Riyadh Deportation Facility. Along with no less than 100 people of other nationalities, Ociones said the 13 OFWs could not sit or stretch their tired bodies.
In a telephone conversation with Ociones on Feb. 18, one of the 13 transferred to Riyadh identified only as Jim reportedly said, “Kasuklam-suklam ang kalagayan namin dito, sir, kaya please tulungan n’yo kami” (Our situation here is despicable, sir, so please help us).
“Hindi kami makaupo man lang, sir, tayuan kami dito.Di pa rin kami kumakain” (We cannot even sit here, sir, we have no choice but to stand), Jim told Ociones. “Hindi ito ang pinangako sa amin ng Consulate noong pinapipirma kami sa ‘due process” (This was not what was promised to us when we were made to sign the “due process” agreement.
Coffin inside the Consulate
To show their dismay regarding their plight, stranded OFWs displayed a mock coffin, painted black bearing their call, “The future of our families lies in this coffin. Send us Home, Not in Jail!” inside the Philippine Consulate in Jeddah on Feb. 19.
“The coffin symbolizes the dangers we are facing now,” said Carlos Rebutar, spokesperson for the stranded Filipinos. “It also symbolizes the death of our family and loved ones as we languish here losing our remaining hope of being repatriated.”
The symbolic action was the stranded OFWs’ response to Tago’s ‘legal deportation process’ they described as “futile.”
Migrante-Saudi Arabia also expressed concern over the deteriorating health condition of the stranded OFWs.
In the same telephone conversation with Ociones, Jim reported that one of their companions, identified as Noel Farrales, is already very weak and might collapse anytime due to the heat inside the deportation cell.
The male OFWs inside the Deportation Facility in Jeddah have also complained of cough and fever through a text message sent to Ociones by one identified only as A.E.