Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), including women and children, who are presently camped outside the Philippine Consulate in Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has surged to 2,350 as of this posting. Their families trooped to the Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila today to protest the Philippine government’s slow repatriation process that in effect endangers the lives and well-being of their loved ones.
The OFWs are seeking immediate repatriation after the Saudi government launched a massive martial-law style crackdown on undocumented migrant workers in the region. Most of the OFWs are undocumented, trafficking victims or those who ran away from abusive employers.
According to Migrante-Jeddah, the OFWs came mainly from Dammam-Khobar, Eastern Region and Riyadh. As of this posting, embassy and POLO-OWWA officials have not yet released clear directives on the request for repatriation of the OFWs as they say that they are still waiting for legal guidelines from the Saudi Ministry of Labor.
According to Migrante-Jeddah, however, governments of migrant workers of other nationalities have been regularly and steadily facilitating the repatriation of their nationals since the crackdowns took place.
“So far, since the crackdowns took place, tuluy-tuloy na ang repatriation ng mga Yemeni, Pakistanis at iba pang lahi. We have been calling for quick action from the PH government especially because there have been reports of human rights violations, criminalization of undocumented workers and other violations since Saudi enforced the crackdowns. What is the Philippine government waiting for?” said Garry Martinez, Migrante International chairperson and Migrante Partylist 2nd nominee.
He said that OFWs and their families started to troop to the PH Consulate in Jeddah since April 11. Their numbers started at over a hundred and surged to over a thousand in just a matter of days. “We have a complete list of the names of the OFWs and their next of kin and are presently getting in touch with them for coordination.”
Recently, as a result of condemnation from the international community, the Saudi government has called a halt to the crackdowns and implemented a three-month grace period until July 4 to allow stranded and undocumented workers to correct their residency and work status. The crackdowns will resume on June 9, according to reports.
“We fear that if the PH government fails to act quickly in assisting and repatriating our OFWs they will be subjected to harsher and more stringent crackdowns and human rights violations by the Saudi authorities,” Martinez said. He added that the least the PH post in Jeddah should do is to provide sufficient shelter, food and other provisions for the stranded OFWs while their repatriation is pending.
The OFWs’ families are also planning to stage a solidarity campout protest on April 30. ###