Runaway OFWs wish to come home this Christmas—Migrante

Antipolo City, November 30, 2010—Only 24 days before the celebration of the birth anniversary of Christ, hundreds of stranded overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Saudi, who run away from their abusive employers, are hoping that they can go home to their families in the Philippines, to celebrate Christmas with them.

John Leonard Monterona of Migrante-Middle East (Migrante-ME) told CBCPNews, that there are more than 100 OFWs—all of them women, who are now, sheltered in the jam-packed Social Welfare Agency (SWA), in Dammam, a province in the eastern region of the oil-rich Saudi Arabia.

“One of them told me that they 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,” Monterona quoting one of the distress OFWs.

Some of them, says Monterona, are staying there, at the SWA, for more than six months now.

“Though there are about 10 of them who said that they have already their plane tickets, [there’s] still no guarantee that they could be sent home before Christmas as there is only one staff, from the Philippine post in Al-Khobar, who is looking after their cases,” Monterona said.

The migrant leader also disclosed that during several case dialogs with Philippine Embassy and POLO-OWWA (Philippine Overseas Labor Office-Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration) officials in Saudi, the Embassy officials said that they could not properly attend OFWs cases, most of it are cases of abuse, maltreatment and unfair labor practice, because they lack personnel.

“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 distressed and runaway OFWs, including those in jail and ensure that their rights as migrant workers are protected and respected,” Monterona said.

But due to the “austerity measures” being implemented by the current administration, Migrante-ME fears that their request of more personnel in the Philippine offices in Saudi, will be not be granted. (Written for