Migrante slams ambassador for lying about hunger strike

Migrante International today said that it stands by its report that at least 180 OFWs from five companies based in Saudi Arabia held a hunger strike last July 20. The Philippine Embassy in Riyadh, in statement released in its website last July 22, belied that the hunger strike took place.

The workers, now dubbed as Saudi 194+, held simultaneous hunger strikes and “stop-work protests” against their companies against labor violations, maltreatment and abuse by their employers.

The Saudi 194+ consists of 98 OFWs from Al Swayeh company, 48 cleaners from Al-Zahran, 17 OFWs from Al-Naseeb Establishment, 19 OFWs from Al Sabillah and 12 OFWs from Al  Phat.  The last batch of OFWs from Al Phat is latest addition to the protesting workers. As of this posting, 10 more OFWs from Ali Fahad Al-Huraish Establishment have sought the help of Migrante International on similar complaints.

According to Garry Martinez, Migrante International chairperson, the OFWs indeed held a hunger strike in their respective accommodations last July 20. “We are in regular contact with them and they confirmed that they pushed through with the hunger strike.” Photos of the hunger strike may be viewed here.

Migrante International, together with some of the relatives of the OFWs, held a “solidarity fasting” in front of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) on the same day. He added that the OFWs also decided to hold another hunger strike last July 23, on the day of Pres. Aquino’s SONA (State of the Nation Address).

Last Saturday, July 28, OFWs from Al Swayeh trooped to the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh and started their camp-out to demand immediate repatriation and assistance from the PH post. OFWs from Al-Zahran are expected to join them shortly. Meanwhile, the other OFWs are still on strike in their respective accommodations. (View photos here)

“Ambassador Tago and embassy officials are either in denial or lying outright. Palalabasin pang sinungaling ang mga OFWs samantalang sila itong ‘tago ng tago’ at hind humaharap ng maaayos sa mga OFW,” Martinez said.

He also belied Tago’s claims that the OFWs are all undocumented or irregular immigrants. “They have their OECs (overseas employment contracts) to prove this, while some were unable to renew their OECs because they have become penniless. But all of them entered Saudi as documented OFWs.”

Martinez also slammed the Philippine Embassy for denying that the OFWs were all victims of recruitment violations. “It seems that our embassy officials are not properly acquainted with our own laws. Contract substitution, overcharging and non-issuance of receipts all fall under illegal recruitment. In fact, the POEA had since suspended the licenses of some of the recruitment agencies that deployed these OFWs for these violations.”

The Saudi 194+ and their families are also demanding the blacklisting of the five companies, suspension of the licenses and banning of the erring recruitment agencies, the refund of their placement fees, their back wages, and financial assistance from the government.

On Friday, August 3, families of the Saudi 194+ are set to hold a picket protest at the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) office in Manila to demand their relatives’ immediate repatriation. Their families are also set to hold dialogues with legislators to call for congressional inquiries and investigations on the allegations of labor rights violations, illegal recruitment and negligence of embassy and POLO-OWWA officials. ###