A RAN AWAY and stranded overseas Filipino worker died yesterday in a temporary shelter provided and managed by the Philippine Embassy and Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
”OFW Jose Berja, in his 50s, died yesterday inside an estraha (villa) that serve as a shelter for male distressed and stranded OFWs who either ran away or abandoned by their employer. He suffered a heart attacked according to his fellow distressed OFWs,” said John Leonard Monterona, an OFW community leader based in Riyadh.
On Saturday morning, his fellow stranded OFW called on a POLO-OWWA official to report that OFW Berha suffered a stroke. It was in the afternoon that he was rushed to the hospital who was pronounced dead upon arrival.
According to his fellow stranded, he was a diabetic.
OFW Berja’s wife is also a ward at the Bahay Kalinga, a women’s shelter under the POLO-Owwa, also in Riyadh.
Monterona said he already called on POLO-OWWA officials in Riyadh regarding the incident. Another OFW stranded at the shelter is suffering a diabetes that need urgent medical attention.
There are at least 60 distressed and stranded OFWs at that shelter in Exit 8, who are seeking refuge while waiting for assistance from the PH embassy and POLO-Owwa for their repatriation.
“His death is the third inside that shelter for distressed and undocumented OFWs,” Monterona recalled that two other cases of OFWs death also reported last year.
Monterona said that living inside an overcrowded makeshifts inside the villa posed real danger to the health of the distressed and stranded OFWs especially to older ones.
“Some of the stranded have been there since 2012. While others are at least 6 months at the shelter since they plead assistance to the Philippine embassy for their repatriation,” Monterona said.
At a peak of 200 wayback 2012, some of the stranded have been repatriated. An average of 10 repatriates in a month, but 20 will come into the shelter as distressed and stranded.
“There is no sincere Philippine government repatriation program and onsite assistance to the distressed and stranded OFWs. The DFA through its embassy in Riyadh lacks the will and proactive stance in dealing seriously the deplorable condition of the distressed and stranded OFWs,” said Monterona.
Monterona said the repatriation of the stranded OFWs whose number continue to increase -a conservative estimate of about 25,000 Kingdom-wide -must be a priority task of the Philippine government through the DFA and its diplomatic mission in Saudi Arabia.
“The Philippine government should raise the stranded and distressed OFWs situation with the host government as a matter of diplomatic concern in finding ways and means for the swift and mass repatriation of the stranded with the host government,” Monterona urged.
“On the death of the stranded OFW Jose Berha and the other two last year, the Aquino administration was partly responsible for its criminal neglect to distressed and stranded OFWs pleading for repatriation, and should be made accountable,” Monterona said.
Undocumented renewed repatriation call
Meanwhile, OFWULA (OFWs Undocumented for Legalization and Amnesty) a group of undocumeted OFWs in Riyadh numbering to 250, has renewed its call to the Philippine government to sincerely assist them and put forward its concern to the Saudi authorities.
It was founded last July 2015 by the undocumented OFWs pushing for either legalization or repatriation of undocumented and stranded OFWs in Riyadh.
Yesterday, the group said it sent a letter of appeal to the Saudi King, pleading for assistance, according to its chairperson Frederick Cornejo.