Stranded overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who have been camped out at the Jeddah Tent City for almost eight months are not impressed with Pres. Benigno Aquino III’s one-night stint in a tent in Bohol.
“For our stranded OFWs in Saudi and OFWs in distress, Pres. Aquino’s spending the night in a tent is nothing but an obvious PR stint aimed to uplift his deteriorating public image following developments in the pork barrel scam and the government’s slow response after the Bohol earthquake. He wants a real camp out experience? Try surviving for months on end without sufficient food, water and medical assistance at the Jeddah Tent City,” said Garry Martinez, Migrante International chairperson.
Some 1,700 OFWs remain stranded in Jeddah, while thousands more are scattered in Riyadh, Al Khobar and Dammam, after the Saudi government announced an extension of the deadline for repatriation of undocumented migrants last July.
Crackdowns on undocumented workers will resume full-force on November 3 (November 4, Philippine time).
Last October 22, Saudi authorities already violently dismantled a part of the Jeddah Tent City. Since April, the camp has served as a hub for undocumented OFWs, most of whom have run away from abusive employers or were trafficked. The international community had since declared that the plight of stranded OFWs at the Tent City a humanitarian crisis that should be urgently addressed by the Philippine government.
“We expect more wipe-out efforts and drastic measures by the Saudi government before the November 3 deadline. However, government efforts to implement a free, urgent and mass repatriation of the remaining stranded OFWs are still dismal. We fear that time is running out.Sa halip na nagpapapogi ang presidente sa pa-‘boy scout for a night’, tugunan niya ang kalagayan ng mga OFW nating naghihirap, nagugutom, nanganganib at nangangamatay na sa Tent City,” Martinez said.
Since the Tent City broke out last March, six OFWs and at least two children have died. Slow repatriation, lack of supplies and medical assistance and the absence of immediate financial assistance to returned OFWs from Saudi have been attributed to the Philippine government’s lack of funds. “Tapos malalaman nating bilyun-bilyong pondo ng mamamayan ang walang-habas na kinurakot at trilyun-trilyon pala ang pondong nasa kontrol mismo ng pangulo. OFWs and their families are outraged.”
“We have already called for the resignation and recall of negligent embassy and labor officials in Saudi. Should anything untoward happen to the stranded OFWs when the crackdowns resume, we will not hesitate to call on the resignation of Aquino himself. DAPat siyang managot sa kriminal na kapabayaan sa kapakanan ng ating mga OFW,” Martinez said. ###