Kin of stranded OFWs in Jeddah Tent City throw “paint-bombs” at DFA “Aquino gov’t has AIDS (As If Doing Something) syndrome” – migrant leader

Because of the Aquino administration’s continued inaction and insincerity in assisting stranded OFWs currently camped outside of the Philippine Consulate in Jeddah, families of OFWs expressed their anger and dismay by throwing paint bombs at the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) seal Wednesday morning.

Families of the OFWs, which had now reached at least 2,500 and still counting, recently launched series of protests at the DFA Main Office in Manila and its satellite offices in Lucena, Davao, Pampanga and General Santos to demand their kin’s immediate repatriation.

On April 29, Monday, families from Laguna and nearby provinces will continue to hold rallies at the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) satellite office in Calamba and Pampanga to demand immediate relief for their kin whilst awaiting repatriation. The OFWs are in dire need of shelter, food, water and medical assistance.

“Despite our OFWs’ miserable conditions and their families’ pleas, the Aquino government has not done anything substantive or decisive to bring the OFWs immediate relief and facilitate their quick repatriation. So far, all the Aquino administration has done is to plead with the Saudi government when they had already explicitly stated that no help can be expected from them,” said Garry Martinez, Migrante International chairperson and Migrante Partylist second nominee.

“This Aquino government seems to have the ‘AIDS (As If Doing Something) syndrome,’” Martinez said.

 Repatriation at OFWs’ own cost

Martinez said that the families of the OFWs were more angered when they learned that the PH government’s so-called repatriation process is based on the OFWs’ capability to shell out money for their own repatriation.

“Iyong sinasabi ng DFA na handa silang sagutin ang repatriation ng ating mga kababayan ay hindi totoo, pawang kasinungalingan,” he said.

Martinez said that the OFWs furnished them with a copy of an information sheet being distributed by embassy and consulate officials asking them “what they are willing to pay for their repatriation.”

 Some 300 OFWs who have already enlisted for repatriation have attested to having encountered the said form from the PH Consulate, according to OFWs and their families. (Attached is a copy of the information sheet)

Ang panawagan ng ating mga OFW at kanilang mga pamilya ay libre, kagyat at maramihang repatriation (Our OFWs demand free, quick and mass repatriation). Clearly, the PH government does not realize the gravity of the situation when it continues to pass on the burden to the OFWs,” he said.

Martinez said that it is the government’s main responsibility to bring our OFWs home, regardless of their undocumented status. He said that both the DFA and the OWWA have funds earmarked for the repatriation of OFWs in distress and in emergency situations. “What we have now in Jeddah is a clear and present crisis and a national calamity, yet the Aquino administration is business-as-usual,” he said.

At least 2,500 OFWs, including women and children, are presently camped outside of the PH Consulate in Jeddah. They are seeking immediate repatriation after the Saudi government launched a massive martial-law style crackdown on undocumented migrant workers in the region. The OFWs are all undocumented, trafficking victims and “runaways” from abusive employers.

On April 29, Monday, families and their loved ones in Saudi will hold a simultaneous press conference to announce the planned “solidarity campout-caravan” of families on April 30 to May 1. The families will troop to the main offices of the DFA and OWWA in Manila on April 30, then proceed to Mendiola and the big May 1 multisectoral rally at the Liwasang Bonifacio on May 1.  ###

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