March 27, 2008
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. #