100 run-away OFWs in Saudi need help

TWENTY-FIVE days to go before Christmas and hoping to be home by then, over 100 distressed and run-away overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) yesterday sought help from the Saudi-based Filipino migrant rights group.

John Leonard Monterona, regional coordinator for Migrante-Middle East (M-ME), said he has received several calls from OFWs who are now under the care of Saudi’s Social Welfare agency (SWA) in Dammam, eastern region of Saudi Arabia.

“One of them told me that there are over 70 staying at SWA, but since there were those who have been apprehended last week during local police raids of illegal and undocumented migrants, they’re now totaling to about over a hundred staying at SWA provided temporary shelter,” Monterona quoting one of the distress OFWs.

Monterona added that others said they have been staying for more than six months at SWA, while others said they have been there for a year.

“Though there are about 10 of them who have said that they have already their air tickets, still there is no guarantee that they could be sent home before Christmas as a staff of the Philippine post often visited them and follow their individual case,” Monterona added.

Monterona disclosed that during several case dialogues with PH embassy and POLO-OWWA officials in Saudi, Philippine officials expressed that they could not properly attend OFWs cases because they are under-staffed.

“We have been constantly calling, and in fact sent a request to the DFA, DoLE and OWWA to consider the deployment of additional staff so that they could properly attend the distress and run away OFWs, including those in jail and ensure that their rights as migrant workers are protected and respected,” Monterona averred.

“But with ‘austerity’ measures taken by the Aquino III government cutting the 2011 budget for OFWs legal assistance (LAF) and assistance to the nationals funds, and slashing the DFA, DoLE-OWWA budget, it seems that our calls for additional deployment of staff will not be heard,” he added. D’Jay Lazaro

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