Sunday, March 30, 2008

Migrante ME Stand on Stranded in KSA

Press Statement
March 29, 2008

Migrante Middle East reiterates, clarifies stand
on Stranded OFWs in Saudi Arabia

Migrante Middle East deemed it necessary to reiterates its stand on the issue of the Stranded OFWs in Jeddah to include the less than 100 stranded OFWs in Bahay Kalinga under the supervision of the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh , Saudi Arabia.

First, Migrante is well aware of the tedious process of deportation as per the Saudi Immigration laws. But let us remind Consul General Tago that the stranded and runaways have been camping out in Khandera Bridge in Jeddah since last quarter of 2006. Migrante-Saudi Arabia has in fact notified and informed the Philippine Consulate General to take actions on the deplorable conditions of stranded under the said Bridge in Jeddah.

It is the foremost responsibility of the PCG being the representative of the Philippine Government to resolve immediately the cases of these stranded and runaways. In fact, the PCG did not even offer any place to shelter, even temporarily, to the runaways until the required papers for their deportation have been done.

After all, we have been suspecting that even the PCG is patronizing the so called “Backdoor” Exit which is permissible as per Saudi immigration laws. Migrante is raising the issue how efficient and effective the PCG in solving cases like these as we have often noticed and based on the numerous complaints we are receiving from the stranded, our Embassy and the PCG just simply says “You should return to your employer, or else you will be sent to jail”. Thus, we ask: is the PCG or Philippine Embassy really willing to extend help to runaway OFWs, who in the first have finally decided to leave their employer because they have problem with it mostly unpaid, overworked, sexually harassed, no free day, their beings degraded by their employer, ect..

Stranded OFWs and families have all the reasons to be angry to the inutile PCG and Philippine Embassy officials; their collective anger is in the right time and in the right place, despite Migrante’s several dialogue with the DFA in Manila.


Thus, Migrante’s call for the immediate recall of Ambassador Antonio Villamor and Congen Tago is based on this resolution filled by Sen. Manny Villar, so that the two (2) Officials could tell fairly in the Senate on what they are really doing in resolving the problems of the stranded and runaways and not to be perceived as inept, incompetent or negligent to the worsening conditions of the stranded.

Third, we absolutely disagree to those who are saying that our call for President Arroyo “to appeal directly to King Abdullah for help in getting the workers repatriated, won’t work”. We say in response: “If there is a Will, there is a way; Kung gusto may paraan, kung ayaw may dahilan.”

In fact, as we have pointed out, Mrs. Arroyo has done this already when she visited the Kingdom on May 2006 and secured the release of 138 jailed Filipinos, please take note, these are jailed, not just runaways. She has done diplomatically as well the commutation of death verdict of OFW Marilou Ranario in Kuwait , but only after Migrante has intensified its campaign, locally and internationally, to save the life of Marilou Ranario by urging Mrs. Arroyo to explore diplomatic action with the King of Kuwait.

To whom we should expect to do diplomatic discussion about this issue and appeal to the Saudi King for the repatriation of stranded OFWs? The Arroyo administration has the responsibility to protect its distressed migrant Workers and advance their welfare.

Migrante, with the families of the stranded OFWs in Jeddah and Riyadh , is now preparing to submit this case to the Special Rapporteur of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights on the human rights of migrants.

For reference:
John Leonard Monterona
Regional Coordinator
Migrante Middle East
Mobile No.: 00966 564 97 8012

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Migrante demands reimbursement of tickets

News Release
March 28, 2008

For reference: Connie Bragas-Regalado
Chairperson - Migrante International

Migrante demands reimbursement of plane tickets for some stranded OFWs

An alliance of organizations composed of overseas Filipinos and their families today held a picket protest in front of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration to demand the immediate reimbursement of plane tickets shouldered by stranded OFWs from Jeddah. At the same time, they called for a full accounting of OWWA's repatriation funds and the release of names of OFWs reportedly slated for repatriation in the coming weeks.

"Despite personal assurances from RP Jeddah Consulate General Ezzedin Tago to a group of 24 stranded OFWs who subscribed to his so-called 'due process' for repatriation; these OFWs were thrown for more than a month inside Saudi Arabia's deportation centers and then compelled to pay for their own tickets home. We demand that the Arroyo government, particularly the OWWA, reimburse them immediately," says Connie Bragas-Regalado, Migrante International Chairperson during the group's mass filing for reimbursements at the OWWA main office in Pasay City .

According to six OFWs recently repatriated, they and their families were told by the OWWA and the Jeddah consulate that they had to produce up to P20,000 for their tickets home.

"This contradicts public pronouncements by the OWWA and a written report by the DFA that says the Philippine government will pay for the tickets. It also violates stipulations in the Migrant Workers Act that says if an OFW's recruitment agency does not comply with orders to provide a plane ticket, it is the OWWA that should pay for this cost and the funds are to come from a P100 million Emergency Repatriation Fund," she added, citing Article XV (Repatriation of Filipino Migrant Workers) of the Omnibus Rules and Regulations Implementing RA 8042.

"It's despicable that in spite of the fact the stranded OFWs already had no money because they were victims of underpayment or nonpayment of their salaries and were without work for many months, the Arroyo government dared to squeeze from them the cost of their repatriation. A full accounting of the P100 million Emergency Repatriation Fund is needed to ensure it too hasn't fallen victim to the high-level corruption endemic in this administration," said Bragas-Regalado.

During the group's picket at the OWWA, they also called for the release of names of those reportedly slated for repatriation to address the confusion ensuing among the OFWs and their families about who is set to come home.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Migrante assails DFA, OWWA

News Release
March 27, 2008

For reference:
Connie Bragas-Regalado,
Chairperson - Migrante International

Migrante assails DFA, OWWA over conflicting reports of stranded OFWs

An alliance of organizations composed of overseas Filipinos and their families today demanded transparency and a full accounting of repatriation funds from the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration following conflicting statements by both agencies about the status of the stranded OFWs.

In separate statements, DFA Usec. Esteban Conejos states 60 out of 117 stranded OFWs are set to be deported in the second week of April while OWWA Administrator Marianito Roque says 84 out of the 145 stranded OFWs in Jeddah are cleared for deportation and may start coming home next week.

"There is an apparent lack of close monitoring and coordination in this case. We demand that the DFA and the OWWA release a complete list of the 'stranded OFWs'especially the ones they say are slated for deportation. As well, they should make public a full accounting of how their repatriation funds are being spent. Enough of the cover-ups and misleading statements," says Connie Bragas-Regalado, Migrante International Chairperson.

Testimonials reaching Migrante International say that chaos and emotional trauma is ensuing among some of the stranded OFWs and their families because they are unsure which ones are included in the list for repatriation.

"It's also extremely unjust for Usec. Conejos to blame the stranded OFWs for their plight. Reports indicate that the DFA and its posts overseas have long been aware of and in some cases are in collusion with 'fixers' who promise the OFWs a 'back door exit' in exchange for a fee. If the DFA was truly bent on ending this practice, why haven't they initiated or worked with Saudi authorities to conduct an investigation into it so that the 'fixers' are prosecuted and arrested?" said Bragas-Regalado.

"Besides, if the Arroyo government was genuinely doing its job to serve OFWs in distress and repatriate them soonest - they wouldn't be forced into trying such a dangerous and inhumane route just to come home," she added.

The Migrante leader also said that even the so-called 'due process' promised by RP Jeddah Consul General Tago proved to be a sham when none of his assurances to a group of 24 OFWs who submitted themselves to this process materialized.

"The so-called due process or legal process proclaimed by ConGen Tago and Usec. Conejos essentially meant surrendering and throwing the OFWs to the mercy of Saudi authorities. Parang basahan na lang sila tinapon, pinabayaan at kinalimutan ng pamahalaan," said Bragas-Regalado, noting the OFWs were even compelled to pay for their own tickets home.

Tomorrow, the recently repatriated stranded OFWs and the families of those still in Saudi Arabia will hold a picket-protest at the OWWA to demand a full reimbursement of their tickets and the speedier repatriation of their loved ones.

"As the Arroyo government prepares to host the international Global Forum on Migration and Development, with Usec. Conejos as Chair, it's already apparent that under Gloria, the real human faces of migration are those of OFWs exploited, abused and criminally neglected by the Arroyo administration," she concluded. #

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Recall RP officials in KSA

News Release
March 26, 2008

For reference:
Connie Bragas-Regalado

Chairperson, Migrante International

Recall RP officials in KSA over criminal neglect of stranded OFWs - Migrante

Stranded OFWs recently repatriated from Saudi Arabia and leaders of an alliance of overseas Filipino groups today exposed in a press conference the slew of broken promises and criminal neglect committed by the Arroyo government against stranded OFWs. At the same time, they demanded the recall and investigation of two RP officials in the Kingdom.

The OFWs were joined by relatives of other OFWS still stranded and leaders of Migrante International. The press conference, held in front of the DFA, also featured 'Gloria' with handcuffs to underline her administration' s criminal accountability in this case.

"We are incensed by the way our embassy officials allow OFWs to suffer deplorable conditions. Their neglect of Filipino citizens is outrageous and we will not let it pass. We commit to pursuing all avenues, including upcoming Senate hearings on negligent officials abroad, to ensure RP Ambassador Antonio Villamor, Jeddah Consul General Ezzedin Tago and other inutile officials are recalled and investigated for criminally neglecting and duping stranded OFWs. Their arrogance and hypocrisy is shameful and shocking," says Connie Bragas-Regalado, Migrante International Chairperson.

"It's also disgraceful that this type of criminal neglect is condoned and propagated by no less than Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo down to Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo, Usec. Esteban Conejos and consular officials overseas. As such, we witness yet again how the so-called assistance to OFWs is limited to press releases and tokenism," she added.

As an example, Bragas-Regalado cited how a number of the repatriated OFWs were compelled to buy their own plane tickets home despite public pronouncements by the DFA and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration that they will shoulder the costs of the repatriation.

"It is a fact that some of these OFWs had to shell out almost P20,000 for their own tickets. Worse, upon arrival in Manila, no airport assistance was offered them by OWWA or DFA personnel," she added.

Other broken promises by ConGen Tago to the stranded OFWs include assurances that they would be repatriated within six days, that the RP consulate would be "on top of their case" during the deportation process and they would all be returned home in one batch.

"Instead, the OFWs were essentially surrendered to Saudi Arabia's immigration authorities and thrown into crowded and inhuman deportation centers for more than a month. Problems inside the deportation centers include poor sanitation, lack of food, emotional instability and mental torture," said Bragas-Regalado.

According to Migrante-Saudi Arabia, among the almost 300 stranded OFWs in Jeddah are women and at least two babies, aged 9 months and 1 year old. Reports also indicate around 30 OFWs are camped out again under a bridge in Jeddah.

"Stranded OFWs is chronic problem. Long-term solutions are needed to address how employers and recruitment agencies are able to exploit and maltreat OFWs with impunity because of inaction and collusion by the RP posts and the Arroyo government," she concluded. #

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Maligayang Bati

(Goody Cadaoas, a domestic helper in Hong Kong for 15 years and now working as staff for Migrante International in Manila made this poem to express solidarity to the newly formed Migrante chapter in Al Jouf, Saudi Arabia.)

By Gaudelia Cadaoas

Maligayang bati
Sa inyong pagsilang
Mga kapatid sa Al-Jouf
Ng gitnang silangan.

Ibat-ibang lugar man
Ang pinanggalingan
Iisang layunin ang dahilan
Kung bakit napadpad sa ibang bayan.

Alam naming
Sakripisyong iwan
Sintang kabiyak
At mahal na mga anak.

Ngunit dahil sa kawalan
Ng sapat na ikabuhay
Sapilitang makipagsapalaran
Kahit buhay' ilaan.

Hindi maiwasan
Suliranin sa pinaglilingkuran
Sumasabay pag-aalala
Sa pamilyang naiwan.

Kompanya ni kabayan
Iyong napagbalingan
Inilahad problema sa trabaho
At lungkot na nararamdaman.

Naging magkapatid
Ang s'yang turingan
Nagtulongan, nag-aliwan
Sa lungkot na naramdaman.

Kayo'y binigkis
Ng iisang layunin
Lumaban sa pang-aapi
Pagmaltrato sa ating lahi.

Kayo'y binigkis
Ng iisang damdamin
Magmahalan at magmalasakit
Sa ating mga kababayan.

At hindi lang dyan magtatapos
Ang higpit ng gapos
Pagkakaisa't kapatiran
Sa pagsulong sa agos.

Inyong ipaglalaban
Pambansang kasarinlan
Hanggang lubos na makamtan
Tunay na kalayaan.

Kinabukasan ng mga anak
Inyong isusulong
Sisiguraduhing matino
Hindi magnanakaw ang pangulo.

Kaya kami'y taas kamao
Pumupugay sa inyo
Sa matibay na kaisahan n'yo
Na patalsikin si Gloria Arroyo.

Muli ang aming pagbati
Sa bunsong migrante
T'yak ang inyong pagdami
Ito'y walang pasubali.

Mabuhay mga kapatid
Kami'y inyong kaagapay
Tayo'y sabay-sabay
Tutungo sa tagumpay

OFWs in Al Jouf form Migrante Chapter

OFWs in Al Jouf, Saudi Arabia
formed KGS-Migrante Chapter

News Release
14 March 2008

Some 30 OFWs working in Al Jouf, a province in the Southern part of Saudi Arabia , have formally founded their own chapter of the Kapatiran sa Gitnang Silangan, a member-organization of largest umbrella OFW groups, Migrante International.

The formation of KGS-Migrante Al Jouf, Saudi Arabia was a product of our fellow OFWs desire and aspiration to work hand in hand for their protection and advancement of their welfare. This is a recognition on their part the need to be organized by so doing they can collectively face the problems encountered by fellow OFWs given the unparalleled neglect and inefficient service and alteration of programs for OFWs and families under the present Arroyo administration,” said John Leonard Monterona, Migrante Middle East regional coordinator.

The newly formed chapter of KGS-Migrante in Al Jouf, Saudi Arabia have elected its set of officers as follows: Chairperson Romeo Villacarlos from Cebu, Vice Chairperson Aljun Dakay from Cebu, Secretary-General Joseph Silaroy from Pangasinan, Treasurer Kent Alcomendras from Cebu, and Public Information Officer Richard S. Tarun from Isabela.

Standing Committees have also been created to effectively render its services to its members and distressed OFWs such as the Rights and Welfare Committee, Sports and Recreation, Education and Campaign, and Finance Committee.

On its solidarity message sent to the newly formed KGS-Migrante Al Jouf, Migrante International’ s Maita Santiago said “We are certain that your organization will contribute much towards efforts to forward the rights and welfare of migrants, within the framework of the Filipino people’s national democratic aspiration.”

Other OFW member-organization s of Migrante International have also sent their respective solidarity messages to the newly formed chapter of the Kapatiran ng Gitnang Silangan-Migrante Al Jouf such as the Katipunan ng mga Samahan ng Migranteng Mangagawa sa Korea (KASAMMAKO), the United Filipinos in Hong Kong (Unifil-Migrante HK), KGS-Migrante Riyadh chapter, Migrante-Jeddah, Migrante-UAE, Migrante-Kuwait, and Migrante-Qatar, and other member-organization s of Migrante International in Europe, Canada, and the US.

Gaudelia Cadaoas, a domestic helper in Hong Kong for 15 years and now working as staff for Migrante International in Manila has made a poem sent to the newly founded KGS chapter in Al Jouf expressing her message of solidarity to the newly formed OFWs group in Saudi Arabia (click to read the poem).

For reference:
John Leonard Monterona - Regional Coordinator
Migrante Middle East
Mobile No.: 00966 564 97 8012

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Magkaisa at Sumulong!

Mensahe ng Pakikiisa
sa Pagbubuo ngKapatiran sa Gitnang Silangan (KGS-Migrante)
Al Jouf (KSA) Chapter
13 March 2008

Malugod na binabati ng Migrante Saudi Arabia ang mga kasama sa Al Jouf sa kanilang paninindigan na itatag ang balangay ng Kapatiran sa Gitnang Silangan (KGS), alinsunod sa mga prinsipyo, patakaran at paninindigan ng Migrante International ngayong 14 ng Marso, 2008.

Ang kalagayan ng migrante sa Gitnang Silangan ay taliwas sa ipinangangalandakan ng nangingibabaw na sistemang panlipunan sa Pilipinas: hindi ito sayaw sa gitna malakas ng ulan, hindi ito pagtuntong sa alapaap ng pangarap.

Bagkus, ang mga migranteng manggagawang Pilipino ay nahaharap sa matitinding porma ng pagsasamantala at pang-aapi. Naririyan ang mababang pasahod, mahabang oras ng pagtatrabaho, kawalan ng benepisyo, mga paglabag kundi man tahasang pagbabalewala sa umiiral na kontrata, pang-aabusong berbal at sekswal at diskriminasyon.

Walang inaasahan ang ating hanay kundi ang sariling pagsisikap upang maitaas ang abang kalagayan.

Sa harap ng mahigpit na sitwasyong panlipunan sa ating bansang kinalalagyan, kailangan ang pagiging mapanlikha sa paglulunsad ng mga aktibidad upang maipagtanggol ang ating interes, mapalawak ang hanay at makapagpaliwanag ng ating pagkakaisa at paninindigan.

Kailangan din ang maagap at mahigpit na pag-uugnay ng mga sitwasyon sa mga usaping kinakaharap sa homefront, o sa bansang Pilipinas. Halimbawa nito ang usapin ng pagpapauwi sa mga ‘stranded’ nating kababayan na ikinakawing natin sa masahol na pagpapabaya ng gobyernong Arroyo sa interes nating mga OFW, at sa mas malawak na pagpapalayas sa kanya sa MalacaƱang.

Ang pagkakabuo ng KGS-Migrante Al Jouf (KSA) Chapter kung gayon, ay isang malinaw na hakbang sa pagsulong.

Ang KGS-Migrante Al Jouf (KSA) Chapter ay dagdag na haligi sa lumalawak at lumalalim na hanay ng mga Pilipino sa Saudi Arabia na naninindigan para sa pagsusulong at pakikipaglaban para sa interes ng ating sektor!

Kaya’t mula sa mga organisasyon at indibidwal na kasapi ng Migrante sa iba’t-ibang panig ng Saudi Arabia, ipinapaabot namin ang malugod naming pakikipagkaisa!

Magkaisa at sumulong!
Ipaglaban ang karapatan, kabuhayan at kagalingan ng migranteng Pilipino!

A.M. Ociones, Chairperson - Migrante Saudi Arabia
Tel. No.: +966-56-679-3202

Migrante assailed Arroyo government anew for criminal neglect

As 'stranded' OFWs start flocking again under the Al Khandara Bridge in Jeddah

"The Arroyo government cannot hide its culpability in the neglect of our compatriots in various distress situations in Saudi Arabia," thus said Bobby Fajarito, Chairperson of Migrante Jeddah as 'stranded' OFWs start flocking again under the Al Khandara Bridge in this city in western Saudi Arabia even while hundreds were still languishing in various congested deportation facility awaiting repatriation.

"While we rejoice that finally, Nanay Leonora Somera was able to come home after an ordeal of 20 years - including the 18 years that she endured being a shepherd without receiving any salary and the two years she spent waiting for a resolution of her case, we lament the fact that hundreds are still being neglected," Fajarito added stressing that Somera's repatriation was merely to save face.

This developed as Migrante Jeddah monitored some 30 OFWs huddled under the Al Khandara Bridge awaiting arrest by Immigration Police including two women and a man who now sleep under the fly-over.

According to information gathered by Migrante Jeddah, hundreds were still 'stranded' in Jeddah. Since the campout at the Jeddah Consulate began, only 24 were repatriated so far, including the 18 women and child picked up by Immigration Police on February 6; Somera and an elderly Maguindanao woman who arrived in Manila last Monday and four men from Riyadh.

The four men who were repatriated (including Hajji Suleiman, Juanito Nido and a certain Oliver and Abdullah Mapandi) came from the first group of 24 men who accepted the "legal deportation process" (or due process) offered by Jeddah Consul General Ezzedin Tago.

Meanwhile, a group of 25 men were set to arrive in the country anytime soon, courtesy of the Immigration Police.

"Wherever the reported 21 stranded Filipinos on board with Somera came from is definitely a 'fantastic play' on statistics," Fajarito added.

Numbers still growing

As of today, Migrante Saudi Arabia counted a total of 190 stranded Filipinos awaiting repatriation:
  • Of the group of 43 (including Somera and the other elderly woman) who accepted 'due process' and were 'surrendered' to the Jawassat or Immigration Police on February 10, 39 women and two children were still languishing in various deportation facilities, mainly in Jeddah.
  • Of the group of 24 men who accepted the same process and were 'surrendered' to the Jawassat also on February 10, 19 men remained in various deportation cells across the Kingdom, including 11 in Riyadh and two in Khammis Mushayyt, a city on the Yemeni border.
  • Of the total of 72 men who encamped at the Jeddah Consulate, was forced to accept the "legal deportation process” and were surrendered to the Jawassat on February 27 ~ not one were repatriated yet. Reports say they have to stay inside the deportation facilities for 45 days. On 12 March, 31 of these men were transported to the deportation cell in Riyadh, in usual fashion ~ their hands and feet cuffed.
  • Four, namely Juby P. Malasig, Renato M. Puse, Jaime Mendoza and Dindo Elmedo were still in Dammam Deportation for months already, reportedly because their "documents" got lost.
  • In Jeddah, 45 men in Cell No. 16 who were arrested through various raids by the Saudi Immigration Police were still not repatriated, while waiting for the release of only their travel document.
  • There were 35 other OFW’s in various cells of the Jeddah Deportation, all of whom were under different levels of investigation.
These include the 30 now staying under Khandara Bridge and the 20 women in Jeddah's Welfare Center for women runaways.

Sorry fate

Meanwhile, A.M. Ociones Chairperson of Migrante Saudi Arabia blamed the Arroyo government for its neglect of the 'stranded' OFWs.

"By accepting the 'due process' as the only option, the representatives of this government signed our compatriots to their sorry fate," Ociones explained citing congestion, lack of food and water, deteriorating health and the general dehumanizing condition inside the deportation cells.

Migrante Saudi Arabia has been receiving constant request from the 'stranded' OFWs for their immediate repatriation and for their immediate needs, including medicines for the sick children.

For example, an SMS sent by Darren Belloc on 6 March says: "Gud am sir. Please help us to be with our families, we are out of options already. We dont know what to do or think anymore. The Consulate cant help, they even make it worse... Pray for us..."

Later on 9 March, Belloc sent: "Gud am! We are now very bothered abwt our situation here. Jawassat (Immigration Police) is not 2 be blamed, but the consulate."

And early on 12 March, Belloc sent: "Sir, byahe na kami Riyadh. Nkaposas kamay, paa. 31 kami para Riyadh, naiwan pa taga-Dammam and Jeddah. Please assist us all the way..."

Also received today from different were sources were the following appeals from the two mothers in behalf of their child:
"Sir hingi po ako ng gamot para kay 'Rayan' may sore eyes p sya at lagnat. tnx Sarah."

"Gud A.M. sir Andrew. Pwd po hingi me ng 2long, kailangan ko po ng gamot s lagnat, sipon, vitamin C para sa baby ko, si Jiril. Si Matet po 2. Tawag po kayo kung pwede. Tnx."
The two women who were part of the original group who camped under the Bridge in Al Khandara also complained that the Consulate representatives never give them medicines for the kids.

Migrante Saudi Arabia also learned that detainees were forced to sleep on cardboard boxes and constantly slug it out with other nationalities just to get food. They also have to buy their own supply water which the Philippine’s Welfare Officers cannot fully support.

"It is clear that we only have the callousness of the Arroyo government to blame for the sorry situation the stranded OFWs are now going through," Ociones closed. ###

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Stranded must go home! Gloria must go down!

Stranded OFWs in Jeddah must go home! Gloria must go down! - Migrante ME

An alliance of overseas Filipino workers organizations in the Middle East have renewed its call for our Philippine Embassy and Consular Officials based in Jeddah to facilitate, without delay, the repatriation of stranded OFWs who were brought to deportation centers last month.

"We have received information from our Migrante chapter based in Jeddah that the 220 stranded and distressed OFWs are still inside the hell-liked deportation center. After they have been promised by Consul general Ezzadin Tago to go for the legal process so that they can be immediately send home, to our surprised until now the 220 OFWs, including a mother and her sick son are still at the deportation center," said John Leonard Monterona, Migrante Middle East regional coordinator.

Migrante chapter in Jeddah said that there are 102 male OFWs inside the Investigation area, cell number 1 at Jeddah deportation center. It includes the 7 OFWs out of the 24 OFWs who have accepted the promised of Congen Tago and the 72 who camped out inside the Philippine Consulate who were earlier promised again by Congen Tago to avail the legal process so that they can be immediately repatriated.

Migrante said further that what is upsetting them is that the growing numbers of women OFWs numbering to 40, where the 12 of them were brought to other places like Riyadh , Gassim and Abha, for whatever reasons only our embassy and consular official knew.

Migrante lambasted Congen Tago for its false promises of immediate repatriation once the stranded OFWs would accept the legal process by enlisting themselves to go inside the deportation center so that they can be immediately repatriated.

"Congen Tago should stop making false assurances to the stranded OFWs to go for legal process so that they could be immediately repatriated; this is not the case and what will happen is actually a long wait until all formalities have been completed including getting exit visa from their respective employers and airfare ticket in which our government can't willingly spend for our stranded OFWs; once the stranded surrendered his self for the legal process, he will be detained inside the deportation center without clear assurance when he will be repatriated," Monterona added.

"We sympathize with our stranded OFWs awful situation inside the deportation center as everyday they keep on sending short messages to us and complaining about their worsening situations as some of them are now sick including the 1-year old son of Sarah Manukat with cough due to cold and there is not enough medicines to take and food are so scarce that others were fighting with other stranded nationals just to get their share of meal," Monterona added.

"Where's the help and assistance from our Philippine embassy and Consular Officials whose very mandate is to assist and help OFWs especially those in distressed like the stranded in the deportation center in Jeddah," Monterona added..

Migrante said that the case of stranded OFWs in Jeddah has been referred to their attention since November of last year. "Mrs. Arroyo and DFA Secretary were made aware of this case by Migrante International case officers during dialogues at DFA Main Office, but it seems that they are dilly-dallying or not concerned in solving this problem by acting what is the rightful thing to do, and that is through diplomatic channels," Monterona added.

"Once again, the Arroyo government is showing no heart to the worsening plight of our stranded and distressed OFWs in foreign country. If we can't get the attention and assistance we are supposed to get from the most corrupt and anti-OFW Arroyo government, we are now preparing a letter to ask the help of the International community by submitting this case to the Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on the human rights of migrants," Monterona added.

Migrante's Monterona further said that the Arroyo government including all her political minions, outside and inside the bureaucracy especial mentioned the head DFA, DoLE, POEA and OWWA should go for values formation with the hope that they could have a kind heart to OFWs and be enlightened not to steal, to tell the truth and nothing but the truth, and to learn how to pay respect to others especially the livelihood and lives of others.

"A corrupt and most anti-OFW government does not deserve the support, thrust and obedience from its people especially from us, OFWs who are long been neglected, deprived of government services, but heavily burdened by various state exactions and other fees and often victims of unscrupulous recruiters and errant foreign employers," Monterona ended.

For reference:
John Leonard Monterona - Regional Coordinator
Migrante Middle East
Mobile No.: 00966 564 97 8012

Saturday, March 1, 2008

On Helping Runaway OFWs in Saudi Arabia

New Release
February 29, 2008

On Helping Runaway OFWs in Saudi Arabia
Phil. Amba. Advisory necessary but failed to present concrete Actions how to curb increasing numbers of runaways – Migrante Middle East

An alliance of overseas Filipino workers organizations in the Middle East commended Philippine Ambassador Antonio Villamor when he issued an advisory to all OFWs in the Middle East not to extend help for runaway OFWs as this act is against Saudi law, but pointed out that he failed to present concrete actions how to curb increasing numbers of runaways in the Kingdom especially in Jeddah.

“We would like commend Ambassador Antonio Villamor for his advisory issued on February 23 that helping runaways, not only OFWs but also other nationalities, is considered a crime in Saudi Arabia . His advisory serves a good reminder to us, all OFWs working in the Kingdom,” said John Leonard Monterona, Migrante Middle East regional coordinator.

“However, as much as Ambassador Villamor’s concern to OFWs not to be in trouble by helping runaways, we are much concerned as well that our Embassy officials, as representatives of our very government in the Kingdom, could come up concrete actions and solutions on how to curb increasing numbers of runaways and distressed OFWs in the entire country. In this, our Embassy officials failed to do so up to now,” Monterona added.

“Our Embassies should have to execute pro-active solutions to the real problems ‘normally’ encountered by OFWs in the Kingdom and entire Middle East . Instead our Embassy, POLO/OWWA, just came up short for having palliative solutions to OFW problems with their employers such as the rampant contract substitution and violations, labor-related malpractices such as non-payment for overtime worked, transportation allowances, deductions of salaries for payment of medical cards and residence permit and sexual abuses,” Monterona added.

Migrante said that they have been long requesting and campaigning from previous Ambassadors assigned in Saudi to have a separate shelter for male OFWs runaways but this request just fall over to their thin ears.

At present, there are 3 shelters run by OWWA in the entire Kingdom: in Riyadh , Jeddah, and Al Khobar, but none of the three shelters accommodate male runaways.

“Migrante’s Rights and Welfare Assistance Committee have observed several times that our POLO/OWWA staffs are not dealing with much concern and seriousness to OFWs problems and being dissatisfied and demoralized how POLO/OWWA responded to their cases, runaways would better seek help from others or OFWs organizations like us,” said Nhel Morona, Migrante-UAE Secretary General.

Morona said that though there are hotline telephone numbers which OFWs could immediate call for emergency situations, these phones are often busy or nobody’s picking it for immediate assistance.

“Besides, if a runway OFW had been out from his employer, for let us say two or three weeks, POLO/OWWA does not accept anymore the runaway OFW to be placed at its shelter. POLO/OWWA would simply says “if you can stay longer outside as an absconder, you can stay ever more days”, Morona added.

Adding to the Increasing Numbers of runaways

Three weeks ago, William Lorenzo, 38 of Ilocos Norte; Joey Mapagdalita, 26 of Ilocos Norte; Francisco Rivera Jr., 38 of Cadiz, Negros Occidental, Christopher Madanca, 40; Benjamin Estacio, 26, mechanic, of Quezon; and Epanio Barba, 33 year old heavy equipment operator from Paranaque , ran away from their employer from Riyadh.

The six Filipinos arrived in the Saudi capital in March last year and worked with Al-Masad Company that does road pavements in Riyadh .

According to Lorenzo, they were not paid their meager salary of SR750 a month until they had labored kilometers and kilometers of Riyadh roads for three months.

The delayed low salaries kept until November last year that after January this year they decided not to work anymore, the run away workers told KGS.

On February 6, the six approached the Philippine embassy’s labor office to ask for help in collecting their four months unpaid salaries and to seek immediate repatriation but the case officer sitting told them to “go back to your employer.”

They can only remember the name Salah written on the case officer’s desk and went out after realizing that the Philippine embassy’s solution is to prolong their agony by going back to their employer.

The six sought refuge from a fellow Filipino driver that drove them some 300 kilometers away from Riyadh where they are working part time as construction workers.

The six drivers are just one picture of hundreds if not thousands of Filipino male workers that are left to scamper for their food and shelter after running away from problems with their abusive employers.

While in Manila , departing OFWs pay to attend a pre-departure seminar where would be OFWs are advised to seek assistance at the Philippine embassies, the promised assistance could not just be felt by problematic workers.

Faced with the reality that they have nowhere to live since the Philippine embassy does not offer shelter for male distressed workers, the problem on the need for male shelter resurfaced after Ambassador Antonio Villamor issued an advisory warning all Filipino not to harbor runaway compatriot in order to avoid being arrested by the local authorities.

“While we admire the Ambassador of pointing what is not allowed, his being legalistic does not ease the real situation on hand,” said Mario Ben, Secretary-General for Kapatiran sa Gitnang Silaagan-Migrante Riyadh Chapter.

Ben added that shelter, food, legal assistances, transportation are basic needs of distressed workers. If the Filipino community is told not to harbor distressed workers, why can’t the Philippine government provide these basic needs of their valued export commodities? As we all knew that there is an amount allocated as welfare fund for distressed OFWs.

“We are urging our Ambassador to make representation to the Saudi government to come up with a mechanism protecting the rights and welfare of our runaways and to secure their shelters who have absconded from their errant employers,” Monterona said.

“This is an opportune time for Embassy Officials, POLO and OWWA at posts to prove that they are working for our overseas Filipino worker’s rights and welfare so that they will not be identified anymore as inept officials at posts,” Monterona ended. # # #

For references:
John Leonard Monterona - Regional Coordinator
Migrante Middle East Mobile No.: 00966 564 97 8012

Mario Ben, Secretary-General
Kapatiran sa Gitnang Silangang-Migrante Riyadh Chapter
Mobile No: 0966 565 745 214