Photography By G. SUASBA of Migrante-Jeddah
Text By A.M. OCIONES of Migrante-Jeddah
JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia — Some 40 distressed overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and hajj pilgrims, mostly women and children, have set up camp under the Khandara Bridge here, hoping for a quick way home to the Philippines through arrest and deportation by Saudi authorities.
Khandara Bridge, an overpass spanning King Fahad Street in Khandara District, became the area where various overstaying nationalities converge in the hope that they would be arrested by the Jawassat (local immigration police) and deported back to the Philippines.
Previous batches of these “stranded” Filipinos have camped out in the same manner and were eventually repatriated. “Stranded” is the general term referred to OFWs who either ran away from their abusive employers or to pilgrims with expired umrah or hajj visa.
“No one,” one of the standed Filipinas answered when asked whether any representative from the Philippine consulate in Jeddah has ever visited them.
“The problem this time is that the Philippine consulate seemed oblivious” to their plight, Bob Fajarito, Migrante-Jeddah chairman, said in a statement released on January 15. “Why are they being neglected like this?”
“These women and children got so tired of waiting for that ‘amnesty’ and became so desperate as to brave the elements in order to go home through the only way they know,” he said.
Jeddah has been reeling under a cold spell, with temperatures ranging from 18 to 25 degrees, since December last year when the OFWs started camping out. According to Fajarito, the stranded Filipinos do not get enough sleep because their tents have been flooded due to heavy rainfall on the evening of January 14.
Thus, their health — aggravated by the apparent lack of food supply — has been a major concern, according to Fajarito.
According to Fajarito, during a conversation with Migrante-Jeddah officials on January 11, Consul General Ezzedin Tago supposedly promised to send his staff to visit the OFW camp.
“Yet Friday came and still nobody came,” Fajarito said. “It’s just as frustrating as their ‘amnesty logbook’,” referring to the record book at the Philippine consulate where “stranded” Filipinos sign up to express their willingness to avail of the “amnesty” program offered by the Saudi government.
“Those who signed up were told that they would just be called through telephone,” Fajarito explained, quoting the various OFWs who signed up for the “amnesty.”