“They were not even given bed foams. They only use carton boxes to protect them from either the cold or hot flooring of the empty swimming pool.”
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA — A migrant rights group deplored the poor conditions of stranded overseas workers in a villa operated by the Philippine government in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
John Leonard Monterona, regional coordinator of the Migrante Middle East, compared the stranded OFWs to sardines, adding that the only difference is that sardines are stored in better and more appropriate space, while the so-called modern-day heroes are left to live in a “harsh environment.”
Stranded OFWs, as seen in the photos he posted in his Facebook account, live in makeshift tents while some use the empty swimming pool as their temporary shelter. Old tarpaulins serve as their roofs.
“They were not even given bed mattresses. They only use carton boxes to protect them from either the cold or hot flooring of the empty swimming pool,” Monterona said.
Monterona visited the villa last Apr. 10. He was not able to talk to any government official.
OFWs residing in the villa also complained of how food donations from various OFW groups in Saudi Arabia are not distributed evenly. There were also allegations that some donations were not given to them at all, the migrant leader said.
At least 120 male OFWs were in the said villa. They stay there for about two to three months before they are repatriated.
Monterona said most of the stranded OFWs who are residing in the villa were victims of labor malpractices. He said some were either deprived of their salary or their residence permit. Others were abandoned by their employers who declared bankruptcy.
These makeshift tents, obviously, are not equipped with air-conditioning unit, a nightmare in Saudi Arabia with temperature that ranges from about 48 to 52 degrees Celsius, said Monterona.
The villa is managed and supervised by the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh through its labor attache, Monterona told Bulatlat.com.
Monterona, in a statement, said he posed as a stranded OFW to find out what is happening inside the villa as they have received mounting complaints on their dire conditions.