245 OFWs, 9 children repatriated but still “stranded” at OWWA shelter in Pasig

Global alliance of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and families Migrante International today called on the Aquino government to immediately address the plight of 245 repatriated OFWs and nine children who are presently languishing at the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) shelter in Pasig.

According to Gina Esguerra, Migrante International secretary-general and co-convenor of Bring Them Home alliance, the OFWs belong to two batches of overseas workers who were repatriated from the Middle East, mostly from Jeddah, last June 14 and 15. Majority of them were domestic helpers, drivers and construction workers who suffered contract substitution, contract violations, withheld wages, non-payment of overtime work and inhumane treatment and abuse from their employers.

The OFWs surrendered to the Philippine Embassy after camping outside of the Consulate and under the Al-Khandara Bridge in Jeddah for months without food, shelter from floods and basic necessities for their children. When they were deported, most of them had coughs, colds, fever and skin diseases.

All OFWs who were deported were taken to the OWWA shelter in Pasig where they said “their condition is not any different from what they endured when they were stranded in Jeddah.

“Siksikan din daw sila doon, hindi sila basta-basta makalabas para man lang bumili ng personal na mga pangangailangan, lalo na para sa mga bata. Wala ring resident doctor para sa mga may sakit. Kung magpapaalam man sila para lumabas at bumili ng pagkain, diapers at pangangailangan, sinasabihan sila na hindi na sila pwedeng bumalik sa loob at discharged na sa shelter,” Esguerra said.

Esguerra said that it is ironic that the OFWs have finally been repatriated after months of waiting but are still “stranded” because the OWWA refuses to give them fare to go home to their respective provinces. Most of them hail from Visayas and Mindanao.

“Ang nangyayari ngayon, dahil umuwi naman silang walang-walang pera at baon pa sa utang, napipilitan silang mangutang pa para sa mga pangangailangan nila at para makauwi naman sa mga probinsya nila,” she said.

Hospital rejects sick baby due to unpaid debts by OWWA

She cited the case of Naima Latip who has been staying at the OWWA shelter for three weeks now.

Last Tuesday, her nine-month-old baby experienced vomiting, diarrhea and fever. She immediately rushed her baby to the Repatriation Assistance Division in the OWWA shelter but was told to bring her baby to the nearest hospital instead.

Latip brought her baby to the Pasay City General Hospital but was rejected by hospital staff because the OWWA allegedly still has unpaid debts from the last OFW they referred there. She had no choice but to go back to the shelter. No doctor has tended to her baby since.

“Matigas ang OWWA at walang ibinibigay na suporta at serbisyo para sa kanila, basta na lamang silang itinambak doon. The OFWs are very angry and dismayed with the government,” Esguerra said.

She said that Bring Them Home alliance will seek audience with the OWWA to demand immediate action and service for the stranded OFWs. “The OWWA funds are precisely for services such as these. Kung mismong ang mga nasa poder na nila, nandito na nga sa loob ng bansa, ay hindi pa rin nila matulungan, ano pa ang silbi nila sa mga OFW?” ###