Extension of deadline of Saudi crackdowns welcomed but… OFWs to continue protests for “free, urgent and mass repatriation” from PH gov’t

Migrante International today welcomed Saudi Arabia King Abdullah’s extension of the deadline for the resumption of crackdowns on undocumented migrant workers from July 3 to November 3, the end of the Islamic year.

According to Migrante International chairperson Garry Martinez, “This is an initial victory for OFWs and migrant workers of other nationalities. The extension is borne out of migrant workers’ unity and resolve to oppose the crackdowns and demand immediate mass repatriation from their respective governments.”

Martinez, however, said that for the stranded OFWs in Saudi, the extension does not mean that the fight is over.

He said that even after the declaration of extension, “occupy” protests in Jeddah and Riyadh are still ongoing at the PH posts. (Please see latest photos, attached)

Nancy Divina Gracia, one of the stranded OFWs camped-out of the PH embassy in Riyadh said, “May amnesty o wala, tuloy ang laban naming mga stranded para sa libre, kagyat at maramihang pagpapauwi. Walang nang dahilan ang gobyerno ng Pilipinas para sabihing kulang ang oras para ayusin ang aming repatriation.”

 Martinez said that the extension should not mean that the Aquino government is allowed to slacken its efforts for mass repatriation. “Instead, the extension should serve as a wake-up call to the Aquino government to 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. Alalahanin natin, at least 12,000 ang undocumented sa Saudi pa lang.”

 He said that the Aquino government should also urgently attend to undocumented OFWs who were jailed during the initial onslaught of the crackdowns.

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.

Here in the homefront, protests will also continue, said Martinez.

“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.

“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.”

On July 4, stranded OFWs in Saudi and returned OFWs and families of stranded OFWs will hold a big rally in Mendiola to condemn the Aquino government’s slow action and neglect of OFWs in distress. ###