MANILA, Philippines-Families of stranded OFWs in Jeddah and Riyadh on Friday set up anew a symbolic campout protest in front of Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Main Office in Manila to demand free, immediate and mass repatriation of their loved ones.
According to Garry Martinez, the families decided to hold another campout protest at the DFA “to remind them that the clock is ticking for their stranded relatives and to demand the DFA to fulfill its promises in a dialogue held last April 30.”
“They are counting days, if they could count hours, minutes and seconds they would. It has been 34 days since the Jeddah Tent City was put up, six days since the campout inside the PH Embassy in Riyadh and 11 days since the DFA promised the families that it would take up urgent action for the stranded OFWs,” said Martinez, who is currently the 2nd nominee of Migrante Partylist and chairperson of Migrante International.
He said that each passing day without urgent and decisive action from the PH government is a life-and-death situation for the OFWs “who are barely surviving in the campouts.”
In Jeddah, Migrante and other Filipino community volunteers have already renewed calls for donations of food, water and medical supplies for the stranded OFWs from concerned Saudi nationals and non-government organizations.
“Their supplies have run out. The children are getting sick. Yesterday, we received unconfirmed reports that two children died of dehydration and sickness. Time is of essence but the PH government does not seem to care,” he said.
In Riyadh, the PH embassy continues to implement a food, water and medicine blockade.
“We just received reports that on Day 5 of the Riyadh campout, yesterday at 1:00 KSA time, delegates from the Kapatiran sa Gitnang Silangan (KGS), Samahan ng mga Manggagawang Nagkakaisa sa Batha, Gaddim Sinaya at Riyadh (SAMAKABA), Royal Guardians and other volunteer and affiliate organizations of Migrante were once again barred from entering the PH embassy in Riyadh. They were supposed to conduct a feeding program and medical mission for the stranded OFWs but they were prohibited by embassy officials to enter the premises,” Martinez said.
Quoting a text message from a stranded OFW in Riyadh, Martinez read, “Hanggang sa ngayon ay walang pagbabago dito. Food blockade, bawal ang gamot, bawal ang tubig. No visitors allowed, no medical mission allowed, no press or media allowed. Lahat bawal.”
“We are especially concerned about the situation of the stranded OFWs in Riyadh because they are being openly harassed by PH officials, hired goons and guards. And they are being deprived of food and other supplies. Again, days have passed and still no urgent action from the PH government.”
Even voters, poll watchers are prohibited
He added that because of the “blockade policy”, overseas absentee voters and pollwatchers are also being prohibited from exercising their right to vote and guard their votes. “Since Saturday, Day 1 of the Riyadh campout, all poll watchers have been barred from entering the embassy. Another human right is being violated here, our OFWs’ right to suffrage,” Martinez said.
Martinez said that the PH government should put a stop to the harassment of stranded OFWs in Riyadh, investigate the blockade and immediately recall and hold accountable PH Ambassador to Saudi Ezzedin Tago.
Appeal to Senatorial candidates
“We also appeal to the conscience and public service of all candidates running for Senator, especially those in the LP slate. Please include this issue in your campaigns, help us raise awareness on the sorry plight of our OFWs in Saudi. Hindi nakikinig ang pangulo dahil nakatutok siya sa pangangampanya para sa inyo. Baka naman kapag isinama niyo sa kampanya ang kalagayan nila ay matinag na rin siya,” Martinez said.
As of this posting, at least 4,000 OFWs are still stranded at the Jeddah Tent City while some 200 OFWs are camped inside the PH embassy in Riyadh. The number of request for assistance by undocumented Filipinos has already reached 5,769 in Jeddah and 3,390 in Riyadh. Crackdowns on undocumented migrants by the Saudi government are expected to resume on July 4. (PR)