Repatriation ‘bittersweet’ for returned OFWs from SaudiRecall of Saudi ambassador demanded

After more than a month of camping out of PH posts in Jeddah and Riyadh, a handful of stranded overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) were finally reunited with their families over the weekend.

Last Saturday, May 18, the first and second batches of OFW “campers” from Riyadh and Jeddah, respectively, arrived in Manila after weeks of holding vigil at the so-called Saudi “Tent Cities”. According to the OFWs, the first batch from Riyadh consisted of 15 OFWs while the second batch from Jeddah consisted of 20 OFWs, all women.

The women OFWs from Jeddah were brought straight to the OWWA (Overseas Workers Welfare Administration) shelter in Manila. The 15 OFWs from Riyadh, meanwhile, reported straight to the Migrante International office.

Also expected to arrive at 9:00pm tonight are the remains of OFW Eliseo Araneta who died of illness in Jeddah while awaiting repatriation by the Philippine government.

“The OFWs are happy to be home. This is an initial victory on the part of the OFWs and their families who stood their ground and asserted mass repatriation despite attempts by the PH embassy to ‘divide and rule’. Their repatriation, however, is bittersweet because they are still very concerned about the welfare and fate of thousands of OFWs who are still at the Tent Cities,” said Garry Martinez, Migrante International chairperson.

Some 100 OFWs at the Riyadh campout are still awaiting repatriation while at least 5,000 OFWs are still holding camp at the Jeddah Tent City.

Martinez said that they have also received reports that another OFW died yesterday while waiting in line for the processing of his papers in Jeddah. “We are still getting the details from our chapter in Jeddah regarding the report,” he said.

“This is not the mass repatriation that we demanded. At the rate the PH government is going, only a minority of the stranded OFWs will be repatriated until July 4, the Saudi-imposed deadline for the resumption of crackdowns. The government has to act faster,” Martinez said.

 Recall Tago

According to Martinez, the OFWs are all resolved to pursue their demand for the recall of PH Ambassador to Saudi Ezzedin Tago for his continuous neglect and insensitivity towards the plight of distressed OFWs in Saudi.

The OFWs submitted their formal complaint letter today calling on the DFA to “recall, investigate and impose necessary administrative sanctions against Amb. Tago”. (Please see attached formal complaint letter)

OFWs rejected by OWWA shelter

Martinez also condemned in strongest terms reports by the returned OFWs that they were forcibly made to leave the OWWA shelter upon their arrival. “Ang banggit nila, sinabihan daw sila ng OWWA na hindi sila pwedeng manatili doon dahil mga undocumented sila. Iginiit pa natin na bigyan sila ng mga pamasahe pauwi. One of the OFWs was sick but was not given medical attention by the OWWA,” he said.

The sick OFW is now staying at the Migrante office in Quezon City while the group is arranging for her medical needs. As of this posting, Migrante is also contacting her next of kin from Mindanao.

Martinez said that the OFWs are also preparing to submit to concerned government agencies their urgent requests for financial assistance and other benefits entitled to them. ###

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