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.
Second, what made us urged the DFA to immediately recall Ambassador Antonio Villamor and Congen Ezzadin Tago. This issue has been raised in the Senate Labor Committee under the chairmanship of Senator Jinggoy Estrada. Accordingly, Sen. Manny Villar has filled Senate Resolution No. 248 - "RESOLUTION URGING THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN RELATIONS TO CONDUCT AN INQUIRY. IN AID OF LEGISLATION, ON THE ALLEGATIONS OF BAD ATTITUDE, NEGLIGENCE AND INCOMPETENCE OF SOME PHILIPPINE EMBASSY AND CONSULAR INCOMPETENCE OF SOME PHILIPPINE EMBASSY AND CONSULAR PERSONNEL STATIONED IN VARIOUS COUNTRIES IN HANDLING CASES OF DISTRESSED OVERSEAS FILIPINO WORKERS, FOR THE PURPOSE OF ASSESSING AND REVIEWING EXISTING POLICIES AND RECOMMEND REMEDIAL MEASURES IN THIS REGARD, which scheduled hearing is set on February 27 but was later re-scheduled.
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.
John Leonard Monterona
Migrante Middle East
Mobile No.: 00966 564 97 8012