Aside from these, Ante said that there are about 10 cases of Filipino women who were raped by their employer, living and stranded in the shelter.
The main reason for OFWs staying this long at the POLO-OWWA shelter is their failure to pay for the deployment cost that their former employees are demanding from them. The deployment cost refers to the amount of money that employers spent for an OFW to get to Jordan. Aside from that, they would have to pay 1.5 Jordan dinar for each day that they spend at the shelter, leaving OFWs more indebted.
“POLO officers would often advise OFWs to be sent to jail to railroad their repatriation,” Ante said, adding that they are also encouraged from taking another job. “But they cannot because they are already sick.”
If stranded OFWs are being treated like this while inside a government facility, Rashida Jaman, 29, said that life is harder inside a detention facility, owned and managed by their host country.
Sometime in February 2010, Rashida and her husband Romy, 33, left behind the poverty in their village in Tipo-Tipo, Zamboanga City and tried their luck in Malaysia. There, their recruiter took their passports and all the money they had. Fortunately, things were initially doing well for the couple, especially when her husband managed to land a job as a welder.
But on April 21, 2010, they were apprehended by the immigration police and were sent to a detention facility. “We asked for the help of the Philippine embassy but they denied us of their assistance because they said we did not go through the legal process in the Philippines,” Jaman said, adding that in the seven months that they were in detention, no embassy official came to visit them.
A member of Migrante International calls for repatriation of distressed OFWs before Christmas. (Photo by Janess Ann Ellao / bulatlat.com)
“Animals would have been treated better,” Jaman told Bulatlat.com. “We were given spoiled food. We had no other option but to eat it in order to survive.”
She said that there are 15 Filipino women and nine children in their detention cell alone. “I heard that there are more Filipinas and their children in other cells.”
Jaman’s mother asked for the assistance of Migrante International, who contacted the Philippine embassy in Malaysia about her case. She was repatriated on Nov. 19 but her husband Romy was left behind. “The condition in the male’s detention facility was much worse because they were being manhandled by the police,” Jaman said. “I hope he could be repatriated very soon along with other Filipinos.”
Jaman said she would not be able to financially help her husband and other OFWs in the immigration detention cell. But, through her consistent lobbying before concerned government offices, “I hope to be of help. I hope they could be repatriated soon.”
Right after she arrived in the country, Jaman joined Migrante International, along with Ante, in a protest action on Nov. 19 in front of the Department of Foreign Affairs, the government agency assigned to repatriate undocumented OFWs. They hanged Christmas lanterns in front of the DFA, bearing the pictures of their fellow OFW, who have become Jaman and Ante’s close friends.
“Are we going to ignore this issue?” Migrante International chairman Garry Martinez said during the protest action. “Are we going to let this innocent children suffer as well?”
Martinez said that despite being “undocumented” migrant workers, the government should not discount their contribution in keeping the economy afloat for their dollar remittances.
In a statement, Martinez said that the existing government policies against human trafficking seems to “lack political will and resources to fully address the cases.” In Jordan, for instance, Filipinos may still be trafficked there despite the deployment ban because they were able to enter via Hongkong, Malaysia and Dubai. Martinez said that they have been receiving “reports of immigration and government officials who are coddlers of trafficking syndicates” but “none have been prosecuted.”
He challenged President Benigno S. Aquino III to quickly respond to the needs of OFWs in distress. “If he will remain silent on this issue, it means that he is siding with abusive employers and other institutions who are gaining benefits from Filipino migrants workers.” (Bulatlat.com)