Campaigns launch for the release of overstaying jailed OFWs

A CHAPTER of a global alliance of Overseas Filipinos workers (OFWs) in Saudi Arabia Friday initiates a campaign for the release of the 48 jailed Filipino migrant workers still locked in a Riyadh jail.

The jailed OFWs claimed that they already completed their respective jail terms, but are still languishing in jail.

On February 7, Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator John Leonard Monterona, sent a letter to the Philippine Embassy-Assistance to the Nationals section (ANS) saying that he has received several messages from jailed OFWs who alleged that they have been beaten prompting the latter to seek for assistance. He requested the Philippine Embassy-ANS to look into these allegations and make a proper representation on behalf of the jailed OFWs.

One of the jailed OFWs, OFW Farouq Hadji Malik Bayabao, claimed that he and his fellow inmates had been ‘heavily beaten’ by jail authorities. “I was among those who were beaten last July 13, 2010; this has been repeated on February 6,” Bayabao on his text message to Monterona.

“Now, upon further inquiry from the jailed OFWs, it appears that a number of these jailed OFWs have already completed their respective jail terms, but are still languishing in jail,” Monterona added.

Forty-eight (48) out of about 150 jailed OFWs at Malaz central jail in Riyadh manifested they have been ‘overstaying’ for three to 6 months, while others said they have been there more than a year since completion of their jail term.

Monterona said the overstaying jailed OFWs said they repeatedly asked the status of their case to PH embassy-ANS officer but they could not get a precise answer.

“As per the local immigration law of the host government, and as per the International Human rights law, we believed that if a jailed OFW has already completed his sentence, he should be freed without delay and process his deportation; the PH embassy-Assistance to the Nationals section is duty-bound to provide prompt assistance and proper representation to every overstaying jailed OFWs,” Monterona averred.

On February 11, various chapters of Migrante in Saudi Arabia formally launched a campaign for the immediate release and deportation of all overstaying jailed OFWs dubbed as “Kagyat na Palayain at Pauwiin ang mga jailed OFWs na nagsilbi na sa kanilang sentensya o hatol” (Immediately release and repatriate overstaying jailed OFWs).

The group initiated a text barrage sending message to all concerned Philippine government agencies including the office of Vice President Jejomar Binay. VP Binay has been designated by President Aquino as his adviser on OFWs concerns.

“Work for the immediate release and repatriation of all overstaying jailed OFWs in Saudi,” the txt message sent by the jailed OFWs themselves and Migrante members in Saudi Arabia and in the Middle East to VP Binay.

Meanwhile, the 48 jailed OFWs asked their families and relatives in the Philippines to form their own lobby group who will be helping the campaign for their release and repatriation.

“The jailed OFWs individually sent me the names and contact numbers of their families and relatives so that they could form a lobby group in the Philippines to initiate case dialogs with the concerned government agencies, and urge the Aquino government to act on their plea,” Monterona added.

“Next week, Migrante officers in Riyadh will be having a case conference with PH embassy officials to discuss the individual case status of the 48 overstaying jailed OFWs and work for their release and immediate repatriation, among other cases,” Monterona said.

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