Some 40 desperate OFWs, most of them women including about 15 infants and children, are camped out again under Khandara Bridge in Jeddah hoping for a quick way home to the Philippines, despite the six-month window announced by the Saudi Arabia government to overstayers.
“These women and children got so tired of waiting for that ‘amnesty’ and became so desperate as to brave the elements in order to go home through the only way they know,” Bob Fajarito, Migrante Jeddah Chairperson explains.
Jeddah has been reeling under a cold spell, with temperature ranging from 18 to 25 degrees and heavy rainfall (and therefore, flooding) since late December when the OFWs started to camp under the Bridge.
Thus, their health, especially of the children, aggravated by the apparent lack of food supplies, has been a major concern, according to Fajarito.
“In fact, they were forced to remain standing for the remainder of last night because their tents have been flooded (due to heavy rains),” reports Fajarito.
“Mahabag naman kayo, (Have pity!)” Fajarito exclaimed thus in expressing empathy with the compatriots living under the tent and under the shadow of the Khandara overpass.
“Wala pa (No one yet),” the women consensually answers when asked whether any representative from the Philippine Consulate in Jeddah has ever visited them.
Previous batches of ‘stranded’ ~ the general term referred to Filipinos who either ‘ran away’ from their abusive employers or pilgrims who overstayed their Umrah or Hajj visa, including ‘undocumented’ children in both cases ~ have camped out in the same manner and were repatriated.
“The problem this time, is that the Philippine Consulate seemed so oblivious to the fact,” Fajarito laments. “Bakit pinababayaan sila nang ganito? (Why are they being neglected like this?)"
According to Fajarito, Consul General Ezzedin Tago supposedly promised to send his staff and check the OFWs camped under Khandara during a conversation with Migrante Jeddah officials last Tuesday, 11 January 2011.
“Yet Friday came, and still nobody came,” Fajarito laments. “It’s just as frustrating as their ‘amnesty logbook,’” referring to the record book at the Philippine Consulate where ‘stranded’ Filipinos sign up to express their willingness to avail of the ‘amnesty’ program offered by the Saudi government.
“Those who signed up were told that they would just be called by telephone,” Fajarito explains, quoting the various OFWs who signed up for the ‘amnesty’.
“Unfortunately, nothing concrete has been announced until now and we are now becoming hopeless that the said ‘amnesty’ would just be a missed opportunity," Fajarito closed.