Stranded Pinoys in Saudi readied for repatriation
06/10/2007 07:59 AM
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The hordes of stranded Filipinos in Jeddah have seen hopes of getting repatriated soon to the Philippines after the Saudi Arabian government heeded pleas of Philippine authorities to move them to the Haj Terminal and to the Port Area in preparation for their flight to Manila.
The Jeddah-based Arab News reported on Sunday that processing of documents are in progress for more than 300 Filipinos, largely composed of those who ran away from their employers who maltreated them, or failed to comply with contract agreements.
“They are being brought to the Haj Terminal for the processing of their documents. Inshallah, within 24 hours after their travel documents are in order, they will be repatriated to the Philippines," Arab News quoted Consul General Pendosina N. Lomondot as saying.
Lomondot said around 350 people, including 120 women and children, were taken to the Haj Terminal and Port Area from the consulate by bus.The report said Saudi officials who went to the Philippine consulate on Saturday were surprised to see the big number of stranded Filipinos who have sought refuge there.
The Filipinos, many of whom used to stay under a bridge in Jeddah after unscrupulous “fixers" promised to have them deported for a fee, started trooping to the consulate two weeks ago as the May 31 end of the two-month amnesty given by the Saudi government to illegal workers to regularize their status drew near.Consulate officials had to solicit for food donations and other basic needs of the stranded Filipinos who cramped the consulate premises. Many kind-hearted Filipinos and groups responded to the call.
The workers came from different parts of Saudi Arabia who fell to the promise of “fixers" who extracted money from them in exchange for a “backdoor exit" in Jeddah.Consulate officials said there was no such thing as “backdoor exit."When the Saudi authorities arrived at the consulate to start the repatriation process, many overstayers — mostly women who reportedly came to the Kingdom on Umrah visas — rushed in and asked to be included.
“They thought that the Saudi government had declared an amnesty program for everyone and so these overstayers came," Lomondot said in Filipino to Arab News.Lomondot said he appreciated the host government’s “gesture of compassion," which came after he sent appeals for help.Arab News said one of the stranded workers was “very ill" and had to be prioritized for repatriation for needed treatment.
The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) in Manila is coordinating with recruitment agencies in Manila to help provide plane tickets for the workers they recruited. The consulate has asked for help from the host government. Many of the stranded women were said to be overstayers whose husbands are working in the Kingdom.One of the women was from Marawi, the Philippines’ premiere Islamic city, who lined up for the bus ride with her four children, glad to be going home after 15 years as a “TNT" in the Kingdom. “My husband will continue working here in Jeddah but I’m going home with my children because it’s more expensive if we all stay here. Besides, I’m also tired being a TNT," she said.
TNT is tago nang tago, a Filipino term for “always hiding." It was first applied to Filipino illegal migrants in the United States.Apart from the sick man from Bacolod, the stranded Pinoys included a woman six-months pregnant and a two-month old baby, the youngest in the group. - GMANews.TV