OFWs suffering mental breakdown inside OWWA shelter

Global alliance of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and families Migrante International today demanded urgent attention for at least five (5) returned OFWs who have allegedly suffered mental breakdowns while staying at the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) shelter.

According to Gina Esguerra, Migrante International secretary-general and co-convenor of the Bring Them Home alliance, they have received reports from an OFW inside the shelter that five of her companions have allegedly experienced “mental and emotional breakdowns”.

The OFW, who requested anonymity out of fear of being evicted by OWWA, said that she is very concerned for the five OFWs currently staying at the second floor of the shelter.

Tulala lang sila, hindi namin makausap. Minsan biglang magpupunit ng mga dokumento nila, minsan bigla na lang iiyak. Lahat sila galing ng Jeddah. Hindi namin makausap kaya hindi namin makuha ang mga pangalan nila. Hindi naman sila nananakit pero natatakot na rin kami baka bigla na lang magwala. Walang tumitingin sa kanilang mga doktor dito,” she said.

Migrante International had earlier called on the government to address the plight of 245 returned OFWs and nine children who are presently housed in the OWWA shelter in Pasay. The OFWs belong to two batches of OFWs who were repatriated from the Middle East, mostly Jeddah, last June 14 and 15.

Majority of them were domestic workers, drivers and constructions workers who ran away from their employers due to contract violations, withheld wages, non-payment of overtime work and inhumane treatment and abuse. Before they were repatriated, they had been camping outside of the Philippine Consulate and under the Al-Khandara Bridge in Jeddah for months without food, shelter from floods and basic necessities for their children. Some were forced to beg for alms to survive.

According to Gina Esguerra, Migrante International secretary-general and co-convenor of Bring Them Home alliance, the OWWA shelter does not have a resident doctor to attend to the medical needs of the returned OFWs.

“When they were deported most of them had coughs, colds, fever and skin diseases. Some of them went home depressed and traumatized because of their experiences abroad. It is no surprise that some of them might be suffering mental breakdowns now in light of their sorry conditions inside the shelter. They say that their condition there is no different from what they endured when they were still stranded in Jeddah,” Esguerra said.

Esguerra said that it is ironic that the OFWs have finally been repatriated after months of waiting but are still “stranded” because the OWWA refuses to give them fare to go home to their respective provinces. Most of them hail from Visayas and Mindanao.

Migrante International and Bring Them Home alliance called on OWWA to provide immediate financial and medical assistance to the returned OFWs. ###

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