Distressed OFWs in Jeddah ask for food, repatriation

MANILA, September 23, 2009—More than 100 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) awaiting deportation at the Hajj Airport Deportation Center in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia has renewed their appeal to the Philippine government to provide them food and medicines, as well as to immediately repatriate them.

In a statement sent to CBCPNews, John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-Middle East (Migrante-ME) coordinator said the 31 OFWs in Cell No. 1—13 of which are women and children—kept bombarding them with text messages asking for food and medical aid.

Monterona said the OFWs themselves reported that they have never received any help from the Philippine Consul General’s Office since they were put there.

“One of their colleagues, a certain Edward, died but we are still knowing the true cause of his death,” he said.

Sardine-packed in hot cells

Reportedly “sardine-packed”, the distressed OFWs, together with other workers-in-distress such as Burmese, Bangladeshi, Indians, and Pakistans workers, are kept eight-by-eight meter deportation cell.

A message from mobile phone no. 00966 543940418 said the cells are too hot; the deportees don’t have clean water to drink; most of them are now suffering from fever and already fatigued and weakening.

Monterona said, last Sept. 16, about 14 stranded OFWs inside cell no. 14 engaged in a fight with their fellow deportees in order to get food.

“The 14 stranded OFWs inside cell no.14 got bruises and some complained of body contusions and pain due to the intense fist fight with other migrants,” Monterona reported.

Not felons

“A certain Ryan, asked us: ‘nagsurender kami [sa Saudi authorities] pra maka-uwi sa Pinas, bakit kami ikukulong ng matagal? Hindi kmi pumatay o nagnakaw? ‘Yan ang tanong namin? Hindi kami nag-murder na ikukulong. (We’ve surrendered [to the Saudi authorities] to make our repatriation to the Philippines easier. But why are being held for so long? We did not murder or robbed anybody. That’s our query: We are not murderers to be put in jail.),” says Monterona.

Monterona said the OFWs are now losing hope.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is now in Saudi Arabia for a three-day official visit, which began September 21.

“They have already suffered too much. Mrs. Arroyo must act now or let her action prove her inutility to help our kababayans, especially those who are in death row, in Saudi” ends Monterona. (CBCPNews.com)