OFWs during their cam p-out protest at PH consulate office in Saudi. Photo courtesy of Migrante International
OFWs during their camp-out protest at PH consulate office in Saudi. Photo courtesy of Migrante International

MANILA, Philippines-As of June 30, 10:00 a.m. Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) time, 80 stranded OFWs have launched their second wave of mass protests at the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO), diplomatic quarters in Riyadh.

Last June 28, stranded mothers with children already launched their “camp-in protest” at the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh.

Today, July 1, the 1,400 remaining stranded OFWs at the Jeddah Tent City are set to “occupy” the Philippine Consulate there.

According to latest reports from Migrante in Saudi, undocumented Filipino workers have already left their homes, building and barracks to proceed to the PH posts because the Saudi police are already actively conducting raids even before the July 3 deadline. (Please see attached photos)

All these are in line with the stranded OFWs demand for free, urgent and mass repatriation before the July 3 resumption of crackdowns in Saudi Arabia.

As of this posting, the OFWs reported that the PH posts in Riyadh and Jeddah have padlocked their offices to prevent the OFWs from “occupying”.

“Two days before the resumption of the crackdowns and PH posts are preventing stranded OFWs from entering their premises. We condemn in strongest terms this recent move by the Philippine government. They failed in their duty to immediately and massively repatriate our OFWs. Now they are depriving protection, shelter and sanctuary to our OFWs. Pagsapit ng July 3, saan pupulutin ang ating mga OFW kung hindi nila patutuluyin sa ating embahada at konsulado doon?” said Garry Martinez, Migrante International chairperson.

According to Martinez, at least 1,400 are still awaiting repatriation in Jeddah, while 2,000 are expected to camp-out of the PH post in Riyadh. Since June, only at least 220 have been repatriated by the Philippine government. There are at least 12,000 undocumented Filipinos in Saudi Arabia.

Even returned OFWs being denied shelter

Martinez also criticized the Aquino government for its lack of preparation in light of the July 3 deadline.

Also last June 28, more than 30 OFWs were denied shelter and other emergency benefits by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA). The returned OFWs, who all hail from Visayas and Mindanao, decided to hold a “camp-in protest” at the OWWA to assert their rights to shelter and transportation allowances to go back to their provinces. Only returned OFWs from Luzon were given emergency transportation allowance.

The OWWA, through Repatriation and Assistance Division (RAD) head Nestor Burayag, said that they couldn’t accommodate the OFWs because “the OWWA shelter was full”. When the OWWA finally relented to give shelter, however, the OFWs found out that only five OFWs were being sheltered by the OWWA during that time. The OFWs from Visayas and Mindanao, through their vigilance, were also able to claim their transportation allowances.

“Thirty pa lang iyon. Paano na kung bulto-bulto nang pauwi dito ang mga OFW bago mag-July 4 (July 3 in Saudi)? Saan nila balak patulugin ang mga OFW, sa Luneta, sa Roxas Boulevard? Kung hindi pa dahil sa paggiit ng mga OFW, hindi ibibigay ng gobyerno ang nararapat lang naman na para sa kanila,” Martinez said.

He said that with the Aquino government’s track record so far, they fear that PH posts will be caught off-guard if mass arrests and human violations take place on the July 3 deadline.

“We demand to know what measures are in already place, if any? Do they have lawyers on standby? How will they facilitate the expected mass exodus of Filipinos to PH posts? How are they planning to assist the expected big number of returning OFWs in the coming days?”

Martinez said that they are set to hold a big protest rally on July 4 in Mendiola to condemn the Aquino government’s neglect and inaction in light of the crackdowns. (Migrante International)