Stories of Despair, of a Future Dimmed, and of Concern for Fellow OFWs

OFWs never seem to run out of horrific stories to tell. But these are not merely stories. These are about lives ruined and hopes dimmed. These are about stranded OFWs in Jeddah returning home wounded but still determined to give a better life to their families.

Vol. VIII, No. 11, April 20-26, 2008

After suffering deplorable conditions inside deportation centers in Saudi Arabia, stranded OFWs vowed to hold a “reunion” once all of them are back in the Philippines. Unfortunately, one will never have the chance to be at the reunion and another may not survive prison.

Armando Navarro, sharing a desperate fate with others

Since he worked as a dump truck driver in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) in August 2007, Armando Navarro was not able to send even a cent to his family. “Pa’no ‘ko makakapagpadala, kinukulang pa sa sarili ko ang sweldo ko,” (How can I send money home when my salary is not enough even for my own expenses.) he said.

For working 10 hours a day, the 46-year old Navarro should be earning 1,100 SRI (U$ 293.33), plus 180 SRI (U$48) food allowance. But 400 SRI ($106.67) was deducted from his salary every month without any explanation. If he would insist on an eight-hour workday, as stipluated in his contract, he would earn only 760 SRI ($202.67) basic pay, and 400 SRI ($106.67) would still be deducted from him every month. “Mas lalo, ano pa matitira sa ‘kin?” (That is even worse. What would be left for me?)

No longer able to endure this, he and fellow OFWs agreed that they have had enough. “Wala nang ibang paraan kundi takasan natin ‘to.” (There is no other way but to run away from this situation.)

In January, they did just that. With no place to go to, they wandered around Jeddah. “Natulog kami sa ilalim ng puno, sa gilid ng mall, sa tabi ng kalsada. Minsan binibigyan kami ng pagkain ng mga NGO (We slept under trees, at the side of malls, and on the streets. Sometimes NGOs {non-government organizations] give us food.

They proceeded to the Al Kandhara Bridge because they heard that there are people there who could arrange for a “back door exit.” After a month, they were so desperate to go home that they accepted the offer of Consul General Ezzedin Tago to undergo “due process,” which, they were told, would take only two to three days to arrange.

They then camped out at the Philippine Consulate in Jeddah before they were brought to the Jeddah Deportation Center on Feb. 27, as part of “due process.”

“’Yun pala, pinaalis lang kami sa Consulate para sa welcome party ni Tago,” (We then realized that they just made sure that we would be evicted from the Consulate premises for the welcome party for Tago.) said Navarro.

From Jeddah, they were brought to the Riyadh deportation center. “Parang nawalan kami ng pag-asa. Buti na lang tinulungan kami ng Migrante. Walang natupad sa pangako ni Tago,” (We lost hope. It was good that Migrante helped us. All the promises of Tago came to naught.) he said, noting that without Migrante which helped publicize their plight, they would have been kept longer at the detention center.

During his detention and transfer from one deportation facility to another, Navarro witnessed the sufferings of his fellow OFWs.

At the Jeddah deportation center, there was an OFW who vomited blood.

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