Migrants’ Group Scores DFA, Arroyo for Continued Non-Repatriation of OFWs

Posted 2:51 p.m., April 25, 2008

“There is an ongoing call for the repatriation of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who remain stranded in Saudi Arabia, including the most vocal leaders who are at the forefront of the campaign to expose the lies and inhumanity they now endure,” said Connie Bragas-Regalado, Migrante International Chairperson.

Families of OFWs and Migrante, an alliance of organizations composed of overseas Filipinos, staged a picket this morning in front of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) office, calling on the Arroyo government to do its job of bringing the stranded OFWs home.

Regalado said a number of the most vocal leaders among the stranded OFWs remain imprisoned in Saudi Arabia. “It appears as if this may be another case of the Arroyo government trying to stifle the truth (about the OFWs’ situation) by hiding it,” she said.

Stranded OFW Joel Agana’s aunt, Anita Manota, said she fears her nephew’s return home was being delayed on purpose. Agana’s mother died last Feb. 11 and DFA officials promised to prioritize his repatriation so he could see his mother before she is buried. Agana remains imprisoned in a Saudi Arabian deportation center, said Manota.

Regalado at the same time hit the DFA for not being able to reimburse the plane tickets of at least four stranded OFWs forced to buy their own tickets.

Despite public statements by the DFA that it released $36,000 for repatriation of OFWs and promises by the DFA including RP Consul-General Ezzedin Tago that the Arroyo government would shoulder their fares home, the OFW had to pay around P20, 000 for their own tickets.

Regalado said it is completely unjust that only those who are deemed to be “active Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration (OWWA) members” are reimbursed. She added that according to Republic Act No. 8042, or the Migrant Workers Act of 1995, there should be a P100-million Emergency Repatriation Fund.

She said Migrante will stage higher forms of protest, like locking the gates of the DFA, if ever the government would fail to help the stranded OFWs.

Migrante will also take its campaign to the Senate on Monday to pursue efforts for immediate assistance for the stranded OFWs and long term policy changes regarding OFW repatriation. (Bulatlat.com)

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