Global alliance of overseas Filipino workers (OFW) today expressed outrage over the Philippine embassy’s inaction on the plight of Filipino women and their children stranded under the Khandara BRdige in Jeddah.
The Philippine embassy’s office is literally just a stone’s throw away from the stranded women and children.
“Our embassy officials cannot provide the excuse that they are unaware of the situation. Sa bawat araw ng pagpasok at paglabas nila sa embahada tiyak na madadaanan nila ang mga kababayan natin doon. Paano nila iyon natitiis?,” said Garry Martinez, Migrante International chairperson.
Martinez said that the number of stranded Filipinos under the Khandara Bridge has reached 50 as of January 20. Most are women and children, eight (8) of them are men. The children, some babies, are considered “stateless” because they have no papers nor have they undergone the usual processes of birth and identification of nationality.
He said that Migrante’s chapter in Jeddah had visited and extended material support such as food and clothing to the stranded Filipinos a couple of times.
“The least the Philippine embassy could do is to provide them temporary shelter and basic needs. The average temperature there now is 16 to 20 degrees and their shabby tents cannot protect them from the awful cold. Kapag umuulan, bumabaha ang kalsada. Ang nakakagalit talaga ay sa kabila ng lahat ng ito, napakalapit lang ng embahada pero hinahayaan lang sila doon,” he said.
He added that members of Migrante-Jeddah are inclined to believe that the stranded are victims of “backdoor agents.” Backdoor agents are agents of human trafficking and illegal recruitment. The Khandara Bridge is a known “temporary exit” of OFWs and migrant workers who have gone undocumented and are awaiting exit visas and employment.
“Again, this is happening under the very noses of Philippine embassy officials.”
Martinez called the attention of the Philippine government to “immediately and without delay facilitate the repatriation of the women and children under the Khandara bridge.”
“This has become a humanitarian issue especially since children are involved. Huwag na sanang hintayin ng gobyerno na may mapahamak, magkasakit o anumang masamang sapitin ng ating mga kababayan doon dahil sa gutom at lamig.”
Martinez said that the case of the 50 stranded women and children in Jeddah is once again a concrete and glaring depiction of the effects of the 50% budget cuts on legal assistance and assistance to nationals.
The ATN or assistance to nationals fund covers costs needed for repatriation and other services for OFWs in distress.
“We call on the government to seriously review and address the OFW budget cuts,” Martinez said. ###