Monday, January 24, 2011

PHL post denies neglecting OFWs under Jeddah bridge

The Philippine Consulate General in Jeddah denied over the weekend that it neglected distressed overseas Filipino workers (OFW) who recently camped under Khandara overpass.

In a release posted on the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) website, the Consulate said its staff members conduct regular visits to the Khandara overpass, were overstaying migrants in the city and the eastern regions of Saudi Arabia often congregate.

The consulate said it was already working on the repatriation of some 40 Filipinos camping out under the overpass before it was reported by the media.

“Consulate staff members had by that time already checked upon their conditions and that the eligible Filipinos signed the Consulate’s ‘amnesty logbook’," the release read.

The “amnesty logbook" lists Filipinos who would like to avail of the six-month royal amnesty announced by the Saudi Arabian government in September 2010.

"The allegations of neglect made by some quarters are baseless and gratuitous," the consulate-general said.

Hoping for deportation

Earlier, migrant advocacy group Migrante-Jeddah reported that some 40 OFWs, most of whom are women who had with them about 15 infants and children, were camped out again under Khandara overpass. (

The group said the OFWs started to camp under the overpass in late December, when a cold spell started to envelope Jeddah, with temperatures ranging from 18 to 25 degrees Celsius, made worse by heavy rainfall and flooding just recently. 

The consulate explained that overstaying nationals usually congregate at the so-called Khandara Bridge, an overpass, to call the attention of local immigration authorities in the hope of being arrested and deported.

Some temporarily camp out there, while others return to their respective homes or those of friends during mid-day or at night, the consulate added.

“The Consulate works to have an expedited repatriation of Filipinos in distress, but there are local regulations and processes that need to be observed," the release stated.

“With respect to those staying at the Khandara Bridge, it is the local immigration police that determine the number of people to be processed for deportation and when to begin said process," it added.

Reduced to almost half

Consulate officials said the number of Filipinos at Khandara has been reduced to almost half, as most of them have either returned to their homes in the kingdom or left seeking shelter in their friends’ houses.

They also clarified that not all 40 are OFWs as reported on the news, as number of them were pilgrims who overstayed their visas.

In the same release, the Consulate claimed it has repatriated 2,448 Filipinos last year, saying it maintains strong representations with the government of Saudi Arabia in behalf of OFWs in the kingdom’s western region.

“The Consulate General coordinates closely with the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the immigration authorities Jawassat, and other agencies on each case of repatriation, which came in a number of batches throughout the year," the Consulate said.

According to the consulate, repatriation money was given by the Philippine Overseas Labor Office/Overseas Workers Welfare Authority for 1,539 OFWs, the host government (844), employer/sponsor (43). Also, 37 OFWs used their own money to get back home.

In some cases, the DFA provided funds for those not covered by other sources, the consulate added. — With Jerrie Abella/VS, GMANews.TV

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