Thursday, March 13, 2008

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. ###

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