No Christmas for distressed OFWs and kids

BARELY three weeks to go before Christmas. But for distressed overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Saudi Arabia, again there will be no Christmas to celebrate as they continue to plead for their repatriation.

According to the migrants rights group Migrante-Middle East (M-ME), there are around 185 distressed OFWs whose supposed temporary stay in PH embassy and consulate-run Bahay Kalinga and Filipino Workers Resource Centers (FWRCs) became permanent as many of them have been staying there for more than 6 months to 1 year to 3 years.

“The distressed OFWs from Bahay Kalinga in Riyadh and Jeddah, respectively, and at POLO-OWWA shelter in Al-Khobar, all in Saudi Arabia, regularly calling us to plead for their repatriation,” said M-ME regional coordinator John Leonard Monterona.

Monterona noted that as per to their latest estimate, there are about 100 distressed women OFWs, 30 of them with children, staying at the Bahay Kalinga in Riyadh, Saudi’s capital.

While at the Filipino Workers Resource Center (FWRC) inside the PH Consulate in Jeddah, there are 45 of them awaiting repatriation, though they’ve been there for more than three to 6 months to 1 year.

Around 40 distressed women OFWs are also under the care of the Philippine Overseas Labor and Welfare offices (POLO-OWWA) in Al-Khobar, eastern part of Saudi Arabia.

Maria Rina Daut, 37, from Antipolo City, is among the distressed women OFWs staying at the PH Consulate-run Bahay Kalinga (BK). “I have been at the BK since August 2011. No Christmas last year, there’s no Christmas also this year. I really longed to reunite with my families,” she lamented.

She was one of the 52 women OFW cleaners who complained against their employer over numerous violations of their contract such as illegal salary deduction, non-payment of overtime work, contract substitution, among others.

OFW Silva (not her real name) with 2 kids, stayed at the PH Bahay Kalinga in Riyadh since mid-2010. She had been an undocumented for 8 years and gave birth to 2 kids on that span of time, until she decided to seek their repatriation along her 3 and 1 ½ year old kids, respectively.

“Hindi alam ng mga anak kong eto kung ano ang ibig sabihin ng Pasko (My kids really don’t know what is the meaning of Christmas),” OFW Silva averred.

“OFW Silva, like other distressed women OFWs with kids at the Bahay Kalinga, hopes they could be repatriated before Christmas,” Monterona, who had spoken with OFW Silva via phone call.

Monterona renewed his group call to the Aquino administration through the Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Labor and Employment, and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, to intensify its efforts and assistance to 185 distressed women OFWs in arranging their repatriation with the concerned Saudi authorities.

“Repatriation is the best Christmas gift PNoy administration could give to the 185 distressed women OFWs, some with kids, to celebrate Christmas with their relatives in the Philippines and rebuild their lives this coming new year,” Monterona concluded.

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