With some days to go before Christmas and hoping to be home by then, over a hundred distress and run away Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), all women, today seek help from the Saudi-based Filipino migrant rights group advocating the rights and welfare of OFWs.
John Leonard Monterona, regional coordinator for Migrante-Middle East (M-ME) said he has been receiving several calls direct from distress and run away 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 they are over seventy 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 according to some, they have been staying for more than 6 months at SWA, while others said they have been there for a year already.
“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.
It was known that there is only 1 staff of the PH embassy through the PH overseas labor office in Al-Khobar who had been attending the cases of over a hundred distress and run away OFWs.
Monterona disclosed that during several case dialogs with PH embassy and POLO-OWWA officials in Saudi, PH officials expressed that they could not properly attend OFWs cases because they are under-staff in relation to the numerous cases of abuses, maltreatment, and rampant labor malpractices.
“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 cuttingg 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.
Monterona said OFWs and their families could not understand that while the government continuously hails OFWs for their contribution to the economy through their billions of dollar yearly remittances, the government are not giving them serious concerns by implementing various welfare programs, on-site services and protection.
“So far, OFWs and their families have been assured by the Aquino govt. empty promises and lip service,” Monterona ended.