23 September 2009
For IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Arroyo’s arrival from KSA met with protest from Migrants sector
Stop using OFWs for media gimmick! Genuine service for OFWs now!
This was the battle cry of Filipino workers and their families in a press conference held in time for President Arroyo’s arrival from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
“For sure, Arroyo will be arriving in style using the 120 OFWs as her unwilling accessories to bolster success in her 3-nation swing. We do not blame the OFWs for jumping in to her junket, they just want to be home and get away from the nightmare that the Philippine government has given them,” said Garry Martinez, chairperson of Migrante International.
Martinez said that “if she truly wants to rescue our kababayans, she could have instructed the Philippine Embassy to repatriate them way earlier, did not leave a hundred more languishing at the deportation center in Hajj Airport, and sent a chartered flight to save more than 200 OFWs stranded in Maldives. And if she really was concerned with their welfare, she should have intervened in the numerous cases of contract violation, abuse and death sentence against Filipinos abroad.”
Migrante gave the information that the stranded Filipinos in Jeddah and the islands of Maldives are not receiving any help from assigned Philippine consulates and embassies. They also cited OFWs reports of not seeing “even a shadow” of a representative from Philippine authorities.
Martinez also said that “instead of delivering grandstanding statements on welfare protection, she could have done concrete actions like scrapping the Unified Contract scheme that absolves abusive employers and criminalizes OFW runaways. She could have also punished embassy officials that drive away Filipinos to go back to their cruel employers.”
According to the group, the Unified Contract was proposed by the Saudi National Recruitment Committee to impose provisions in the contract of OFWs working in the Kingdom which were detrimental to the interest of OFWs especially domestic helpers. The said proposal was signed by then DOLE Secretary Pat Sto Tomas in 2002 despite criticisms.
Filipino deportees left behind in Jeddah
Last September 18, Abdul Jalil Sinal, a Filipino at the deportation center in Jeddah called Migrante and accounted that they are 88, 37 men and 51 women. One has already died, 6 have LBM and 5 have difficulties in breathing. He also reported that 30 people are being cramped in 8x8 meter cells and food and water is hardly available.
Sinal also reported on the next day that Godspray Espinas was brought to the hospital. Mila Espinas, his mother, informed Migrante that his son has a weak heart and undergoes medication.
Migrante confirmed that according to the accounts of the OFWs, the Philippine Embassy has not sent any individual to give them support.
“Wala ka talagang maasahan sa embassy. Sa totoo lang mas gugustuhin pa ng mga Pinoy na magpahuli sa police kaysa lumapit sa ating embahada. Imposibleng hindi nila alam ang kalagayan ng mga kababayan natin sa deportation center,” said Anwar Sinal, brother of Abdul and also worked in Saudi Arabia last year until February 2009.
Still no help for OFWs in Maldives
“Contrary to what OWWA announced in September 10, help is still nowhere to be found. Two weeks has already passed since we have informed the DFA, POEA and OWWA about the plight of the OFWs in Maldives. Nasaan na ang ipinagmamayabang ni Carmelita Dimzon na kaya nilang mapauwi ang ating mga kababayan sa loob ng 48 oras,” exclaimed Martinez.
Martinez added that they have informed the DFA and Philippine Embassy in Bangladesh that the workers were being forced to sign resignation papers before they process exit clearances and air tickets, and yet they did not do anything to intervene to fast track the repatriation.
More than 200 Filipinos working for the rehabilitation of Tsunami stricken Maldives islands complained of unpaid 5-month salaries and inadequate food and water.
Armando del Mundo, one of the workers, phoned Migrante and said that “dahil mukhang wala na talagang darating na tulong, makikipagsapalaran na kami sa Male kahit walang tiyak na matutuluyan, kaysa naman mamatay kami sa gutom at sakit dito.”
They have decided to use their last few money to rent small boats and proceed to the capital of Maldives which is 36 hours away by boat from their present location. The Filipinos are situated in three remote islands – Villingili, Dhandhoo and Maamendhoo.###
Garry Martinez, Chairperson, 09217229740
Ailyn Abdula, Media Officer, 09212708994