March 26, 2008
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. #