Dreams Turned Nightmare: Is There Still Hope for Stranded OFWs in Jeddah?

“Umiiyak s’ya. Tapos naririnig ko pa ‘yung mga Arabo, baka kukunin na sila no’n” (He was crying. I could even hear the Arab men in the background. Perhaps they were about to take them then.) said Jenny who was also crying.

On March 12, they were transferred to a Riyadh deportation facility, also with their feet and hands cuffed. They immediately sent text messages to their families here and to Migrante International Secretary-General Maita Santiago.

“Byahe na kami Riyadh. 31 kami..12 hours byahe. Ipray nalang kami. Nakaposas kamay at paa namin. Coordinate with Maita ha,” (We are being taken to Riyadh. There are 31 of us and we would be traveling for 12 hours. Please pray for us. Our hands and feet are in cuffs. Coordinate with Maita.) OFW Darren Belloc‘s message to his wife Ginalynne read.

That same day, some of the relatives of the recent batch of deportees transferred to Riyadh sought the help of Migrante International.

Like the OFWs who feel that they have been abandoned by Philippine embassy officials in Saudi, relatives here feel the same way, too.

One for all, all for one

According to Migrante-KSA, there are about 250 stranded OFWs in Jeddah alone. This number does not include the OFWs at the Welfare Center, in safehouses provided by fixers, and those who were transferred to other deportation facilities in Riyadh, Gassim, Abha, and Dammam.

So far, only 18 women have reportedly been deported to the Philippines in February. Hundreds more are struggling to survive while awaiting deportation.

If there is anything positive amid the nightmare engulfing the stranded OFWs is the camaraderie and unity developing among many of the stranded OFWs. This is best exemplified by Carlos Rebutar who emerged as the spokesperson of the stranded OFWs. Rebutar told his family that he would not leave Jeddah even if his family and friends are able to raise the money for his plane ticket.

Although worried about his son’s miserable condition and the consequences on him of being the spokesperson of the group, Leonila understands her son’s decision.

“Di daw n’ya kailangan ng pera o ticket (na ipapadala namin). Gusto n’ya umuwi silang sama-sama” (He said he doesn’t need the money or ticket that we may be able to send him. They want to go home together as a group.) Leonila told Bulatlat. (Bulatlat.com)

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