Thursday, February 7, 2008

Migrante slams Arroyo administration over criminal neglect

News Release
February 7, 2008

For reference:
Connie Bragas-Regalado, Chairperson (0927-215-7392)

84 stranded OFWs in Jeddah set up camp outside RP Consulate:
Migrante slams Arroyo administration over criminal neglect

An alliance of organizations composed of overseas Filipinos and their families today scored the RP consulate in Jeddah and the Arroyo administration over their criminal neglect and inaction regarding the horrendous plight of stranded OFWs in Jeddah.

At the same time, they saluted the courage of the 84 OFWs who recently set-up camp outside the RP consulate as part of their bid to be returned to the Philippines immediately.

The 84 OFWs, including 10 women and 2 children, were among the more than 100 'stranded' OFWs who were forced to live under a bridge in the Al-Khandara district after running away from abusive employers. Some of the women also report being victims of sexual harassment.

"It's deplorable that RP Consul General Ezzedin Tago and the Department of Foreign Affairs has neglected them for this long. It's the height of hypocrisy for the Arroyo administration to hail OFWs as 'modern-day heroes' while it plays deaf and dumb to their pleas when they're in distress," says Connie Bragas-Regalado.

"This is an emergency crisis situation. We demand that the DFA and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration act with haste to ensure their immediate repatriation to the Philippines," she added, noting the establishment of a P100 million Emergency Repatriation Fund under the OWWA, as per the Migrant Workers Act of 1995.

Pregnant women, children among stranded

According to Migrante-Saudi Arabia, there are approximately 179 OFWs stranded in Jeddah as of last February 6. This included 26 women (two of whom are pregnant), 3 children, 63 who are at the Consulate’s welfare center and 16 drivers from the Al-Yami transport.

"Gusto ko nang makauwi kasi kawawa naman ang baby ko. Ang hirap dito, maalikabok, malamig," said Sarah Masukat, a 29 year old domestic worker from South Cotabato who was among those living under the bridge in Jeddah with her one year old son. Sarah is three months pregnant.

Sarah arrived in Jeddah in March 2004 and she ran away in December 2004. She is a victim of contract substitution (her salary was reduced from SR750 to SR600) and has eight months unpaid salary.

"We salute Sarah and the other stranded OFWs who have united to expose both the sufferings they endured under their employers as well as the criminal neglect of the RP Consulate in Jeddah," said Bragas-Regalado.

“For as long as the Arroyo government implements and intensifies a policy of labor export, there will always be a cycle of ‘stranded OFWs’ in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. OFW – because underlying this policy is the treatment of OFWs as commodities for export. As such, when it comes to their rights and welfare, the anti-migrant Arroyo government is quick to play deaf, dumb and blind. Along with intensifying our campaign for the repatriation of these OFWs, we will also continue to heighten demands for Arroyo’s immediate ouster,” concluded Bragas-Regalado. #

Also available for interviews:
Carlos Rebutar, Spokesperson of Stranded OFWs - 0096551877597
Bobby Fajarito, Migrante-Jeddah Chairperson - 00966502745340
Andrew M. Ociones, Migrante-KSA Chairperson - 00966508944426

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