This is according to the Filipino migrants’ sectoral group on the recent arrest of 18 undocumented and stranded overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
On Tuesday, around 40 undocumented OFWs along 7 women with children staged a sit-in peaceful demonstration inside the Philippine overseas labor office (POLO) in Saudi’s capital Riyadh to press embassy and labor officials to seriously and promptly attend on their repatriation.
“We see no violation of Saudi laws as the sit-in demonstration by the 40 stranded OFWs was peacefully done. They were at the POLO compound premises to air a legitimate grievance as they see that embassy and labor officials are not properly giving them assistance and are only dilly-dallying their repatriation,” said MIGRANTE vice chairman John Leonard Monterona, also the group’s coordinator in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).
Monterona added that it is very understandable that the stranded OFWs decided to collectively and voluntarily stage a peaceful sit-in demonstration inside the POLO compound on Tuesday out of their desperation to be repatriated. “They believed that embassy and labor officials are not properly attending their repatriation formalities despite coming forth and back with their accomplished documentation to embassy and labor officials for several times.”
“PH embassy and labor officials in Riyadh should have faced and talked to the stranded OFWs to explain to them the repatriation formalities and assure them of their outmost assistance. Instead, PH officials reported and asked the Saudi police to disperse the 40 stranded OFWs who are inside the POLO compound,” according to Monterona citing the 3 stranded OFWs who were nabbed by Saudi police and allegedly were manhandled.
Monterona said it was POLO-OWWA welfare officer Abdullah Umpa reported and asked the Saudi police to disperse the stranded OFWs inside the POLO compound following the order of Labor attache Adam Musa and PH ambassador Ezzadin Tago.
“It was actually PH embassy and labor officials who put the stranded OFWs in jeopardy by reporting and asking the Saudi police to disperse the 40 stranded OFWs inside the POLO compound who were only there to peacefully air their grievances and demand prompt assistance from the PH officials who are in fact duty-bound to assist undocumented OFWs longing to be home. It highlighted PH embassy and labor officials’ incompetence to handle situation like this” Monterona averred.
Monterona added, “Iyong dapat sana’y sanctuary ng mga OFWs na PH embassy and labor-welfare offices sa Saudi Arabia ay tila naging kumonoy para lalo pang ipahamak ang mga OFWs na nangangailangan ng tulong.”
“We condemn in the strongest terms possible the act of the PH embassy and labor officials in Saudi Arabia by reporting and asking the Saudi police to disperse the peaceful sit-in of the 40 stranded OFWs inside the POLO compound,” Monterona lamented.
He also urged international human rights organizations to join them to condemn the brutal dispersal of the 40 stranded OFWs including women and children by the Saudi police as requested by PH embassy and labor officials in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
He added PH embassy and labor officials in Saudi Arabia should respect the human rights of fellow OFWs.
“We call on Pres. Aquino III, members of the PH Congress, and the PH Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to probe this incident as it wantonly violates the human rights of the 40 Filipino migrant workers,” Monterona concluded.