Repatriation of Distressed OFWs delayed for Arroyo's Jeddah visit?

An alliance of Filipino migrant groups expressed concern that the repatriation of distressed overseas Filipino workers in Saudi Arabia could have been put on hold to wait for the visit of President Arroyo.

“But their repatriation will not happen any day from now until Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo arrives in Saudi Arabia reportedly on 21st September,” said John Leonard Monterona, regional coordinator of Migrante-Middle East chapter.

Monterona said Migrante chapter in Jeddah informed them that the number of stranded workers in Jeddah seeking repatriation is now estimated at 300.

“Just like her previous visit in the Kingdom, she will make sure that she has a trophy to present to the public –the 300 stranded OFWs; this is cheap publicity stunt at the expense of OFWs lives and well being,” Monterona said.

He said the repatriation of distress OFWs usually increase during and after the Ramadan. He added that this has been a problem that the Philippine Consulate General failed to solve.

“But this should not be case, the “One Country Team” approach by the government is not working and ineffective; it must be coupled with genuine protection mechanism that would ensure that OFWs rights and welfare is being guaranteed by receiving host governments as well,” Monterona stressed.

Monterona said the 300 stranded OFWs are now inside the Hajj Airport in Jeddah hoping for their immediate repatriation.

“In fact, they are readying and now eager to be home and be reunited with their loved ones. But according to PCG announcement, only 170 of them will be repatriated,” he said.

He added: “With or without Gloria coming to Saudi Arabia, the hundreds of distressed and stranded OFWs must be repatriated immediately as it is primary government responsibility.”

Repatriation on going

On Tuesday, the Department of Foreign Affairs announced that 71 OFWs are set to arrive from Jeddah on Wednesday.

According to the DFA’s Web site, the third batch consists of 62 female, six male and three children. They are expexted arrive at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport at 11 p.m.

“The Philippine Government extends its gratitude to the Saudi government for the immediate processing of the exit papers of the 71 Filipinos,“ the DFA stated.

On Monday, 66 Filipinos composed of 24 adults and 42 children returned to the country. They were repatriated by Saudi Arabia deportation authorities.

The OFWs were among the Filipino migrant workers who stayed under a bridge in Jeddah. ABS-CBN News