Sunday, January 16, 2011

OFWs stranded in Jeddah cry for repatriation

Some 40 desperate OFWs – most of whom are women who had with them about 15 infants and children – are camped out again under Khandara Bridge in Jeddah hoping for a quick way home to the Philippines, despite the Saudi Arabia government announcing a six-month window for overstaying foreign workers.

“Mahabag naman kayo! [Have pity!]," Migrante Jeddah Chair Bob Fajarito implored for Filipino compatriots living in tents under the shadow of the Khandara overpass.

“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," Fajarito explained.

Jeddah has been reeling under a cold spell, with temperatures ranging from 18 to 25 degrees Celsius, and also beset with heavy rainfall and flooding since late December when the OFWs started to camp under the Bridge.

“In fact, they were forced to remain standing for the remainder of last night because their tents [were] flooded [due to heavy rains]," reports Fajarito.

Their health situation, especially that of the children, is aggravated by the lack of food supplies, according to Fajarito.

Some 40 OFWs in Jeddah - including women with infants - are camping out under Khandara Bridge while awaiting repatriation. G. Suasba/Migrante Jeddah

Official neglect

Asked whether any representative from the Philippine Consulate in Jeddah ever visited them, the women answered in unison, “Wala pa [No one yet]."

Khandara Bridge has been the usual place where various overstaying foreign workers converge in order to return to their original point-of-origin through the regular arrests and deportation made by the local Immigration Police.

Previous batches of the ‘stranded’ – the general term given to OFWs who have either run away from their abusive employers, or Filipino pilgrims who overstayed their Umrah or Hajj visa – have camped out in the same manner and were repatriated. The stranded include ‘undocumented’ children of both OFWs and pilgrims.

“The problem this time is that the Philippine Consulate seemed so oblivious to the fact," Fajarito laments. “Bakit pinababayaan sila nang ganito? (Why are they being neglected like this?)"

Promised visit

According to Fajarito, Consul General Ezzedin Tago had talked with Migrante Jeddah officials on Jan. 11 and supposedly promised to send his staff to check the OFWs camped under the Khandara overpass.

“Yet Friday came, and still nobody came," Fajarito lamented. “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 by telephone," he explained, referring to OFWs who had signed up for the ‘amnesty’.

Migrante said nothing concrete has come out of it and they are losing hope that “the said ‘amnesty’ would just be a missed opportunity." — MRT/VS, GMANews.TV

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