MANILA, Philippines-Migrante International today said that the extension of the deadline for the resumption of crackdowns on undocumented migrant workers in Saudi Arabia from July 3 to November 3 should not mean that the Aquino government is allowed to slacken its efforts to repatriate stranded OFWs.
“This should serve as a wake-up call to the Aquino government. The government should clean its act, systematize its mechanisms and urgently facilitate the OFWs’ demands for repatriation. They should still act as if the deadline was yesterday and not a moment to lose,” said Garry Martinez, Migrante International chairperson.
Martinez said that stranded OFWs who already acquired their travel documents were able to get them after at least a month; while those who got their exit visas were able to acquire them after at least two months.
According to latest reports, out of around 5,000 who registered for repatriation, only about 600 were able to get “fingerprinted”. The “fingerprinting” process is facilitated by PH posts in Saudi. Without the OFWs’ fingerprints, the OFWs will not be given their exit visas.
PH posts are only open for fingerprinting during Saturdays.
Martinez said that this is the reason why protests will continue here and in Saudi despite the extension.
In Jeddah and Riyadh, “occupy” protests are still ongoing. Stranded OFWs are still presently camped in and out of the PH embassy in Riyadh as of this posting. There is also no truth to government claims that the number of OFWs at the Jeddah Tent City has dwindled considerably since the declaration of the extension.
“If anything, more stranded OFWs are trooping to PH posts to fast track the facilitation of their repatriation. Huwag ibaling ng gobyerno sa mga OFW ang sisi sa pagsasabing wala nang dahilan para hindi nila maayos ang kanilang mga papeles. Matagal nang mahaba ang pila sa pagpoproseso sa mga embahada, gawin nila ng mahusay at sistematiko ang gma trabaho nila,” Martinez said.
Here in the Philippines, protests will also continue. Tomorrow, July 4, returned OFWs and families of stranded OFWs will hold a big rally in Mendiola to condemn the Aquino government’s slow action and neglect of OFWs in distress.
“Tuloy din ang mga protesta ng daan-daang mga stranded OFW na nakauwi dito sa Pilipinas para naman sa benepisyo, serbisyo at trabaho sa sariling bayan.”
He cited among the returned OFWs’ demands the (1) P10,000 emergency financial assistance from the Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration (OWWA); (2) decent shelter for OFWs upon arrival; (3) transportation allowances for their trip back to their hometowns; and (4) medical assistance for the returned OFWs.
“These are benefits that the OFWs are entitled to, regardless of their status. These, however, are tactical needs; they are not sustainable. Ultimately, the Aquino government should address the unemployment of returned and returning OFWs.”