Migrante International today said that the extension of the deadline for the resumption of crackdowns on undocumented migrant workers in Saudi Arabia from July 3 to November 3 should not mean that the Aquino government is allowed to slacken its efforts to repatriate stranded OFWs.
“This should serve as a wake-up call to the Aquino government. The government should clean its act, systematize its mechanisms and urgently facilitate the OFWs’ demands for repatriation. They should still act as if the deadline was yesterday and not a moment to lose,” he said.
He said that stranded OFWs in Saudi who already acquired their travel documents were able to get them after at least a month; while those who got their exit visas were able to acquire them after at least two months.
According to latest reports, out of around 5,000 who registered for repatriation, only about 600 were able to get “fingerprinted”. The “fingerprinting” process is facilitated by PH posts in Saudi. Without the OFWs’ fingerprints, the OFWs will not be given their exit visas. PH posts are only open for fingerprinting during Saturdays.
He added that while the Saudi government announced an extension, similar martial-law style crackdowns are ongoing in other countries such as Kuwait, Bahrain, Jordan, and even in Malaysia and South Korea.
Migrante together with other people’s organizations today trooped to Mendiola to condemn the Aquino government’s slow action and neglect of OFWs in distress.
Campout dispersed by PH embassy, 3 OFWs arrested, still missing
Martinez said that this is the reason why protests will continue here and in Saudi despite the extension. “If anything, more stranded OFWs are trooping to PH posts to fast track the facilitation of their repatriation. Huwag ibaling ng gobyerno sa mga OFW ang sisi sa pagsasabing wala nang dahilan para hindi nila maayos ang kanilang mga papeles. Matagal nang mahaba ang pila sa pagpoproseso sa mga embahada, gawin nila ng mahusay at sistematiko ang gma trabaho nila,” he said.
In Jeddah and Riyadh, “occupy” protests are still ongoing. Stranded OFWs are still presently camped in and out of the PH embassy in Riyadh as of this posting. There is also no truth to government claims that the number of OFWs at the Jeddah Tent City has dwindled considerably since the declaration of the extension.
Last June 30, 11:00pm KSA time, KSA police and Philippine embassy officials violently dispersed protesting stranded OFWs outside the PH post in Riyadh. Three stranded OFWs who were arrested remain missing as of this posting.
According to reports from the stranded OFWs, POLO-Riyadh officials called Saudi mobile police and proceeded to harass, electrocute and arrest leaders of the campout protest. The violent dispersal was led by POLO case officer Abdullah Umpa. According to the OFWs, Umpa acted upon direct orders from Labor Attache Adam Musa and Ambassador Ezzedin Tago.
Migrante-Riyadh identified the arrested and still missing OFWs as Reden Caboboy (KSA mobile #: 00966562642769), Fernand Morante (KSA mobile #: 00966580755706) and Glenn Mark Corbilla.
OFWs who were harassed, manhandled and electrocuted were identified as Jerby Alcaide (KSA mobile # 00966530328789), Richard Prindol (KSA mobile #00966506109590) and Klight Alligo (KSA mobile #: 0966580559485). They are still with the protesters at the PH embassy and Riyadh and are available for interviews and testimonies.
“We strongly condemn this latest incident of violence and undue attacks against stranded OFWs who only wish to fast track the facilitation on their repatriation. We demand that PH officials surface the missing OFWs now. We will hold Umpa, Tago and Musa directly accountable should any harm befall them,” said Martinez.
Last June 28, some 80 returned OFWs filed en masse complaints at the OWWA against abusive and erring embassy and consulate officials involved in the “sex-for-flight” scheme, harassment, corruption, extortion and other abuses that have arisen in light of the crackdowns against undocumented migrants.
Returned OFWs demand emergency financial assistance, jobs
Here in the Philippines, protests will also continue. “Tuloy din ang mga protesta ng daan-daang mga stranded OFW na nakauwi dito sa Pilipinas para naman sa benepisyo, serbisyo at trabaho sa sariling bayan.”
He cited among the returned OFWs’ demands the (1) P10,000 emergency financial assistance from the Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration (OWWA); (2) decent shelter for OFWs upon arrival; (3) transportation allowances for their trip back to their hometowns; and (4) medical assistance for the returned OFWs.
As of this posting, at least 35 returned OFWs are presently holding a “camp-in” protest at the OWWA shelter in Manila. “They are resolved to stay there and stay put until the government gives them the P10,000 emergency financial assistance,” said Martinez.
The P10,000 financial assistance was previously given to returned OFWs from Libya, Syria and other distressed OFWs who were forcibly repatriated due to crisis situations abroad. The emergency assistance is different and separate from the livelihood package being offered by OWWA to returned OFWs.
“These are benefits that the OFWs are entitled to, regardless of their status. These, however, are tactical needs; they are not sustainable. Ultimately, the Aquino government should address the unemployment of returned and returning OFWs.”
“Three years of Aquino and our OFWs are still stranded, still being prostituted and trafficked, still dying, still begging for assistance and benefits from the government. These are issues that depict the real state of migrants under Aquino’s midterm. This is the real state of the nation,” Martinez said. ###