Pinoys facing deportation in Jeddah swell to 850
06/11/2007 10:30 AM
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The number of Filipinos awaiting deportation in Jeddah has swollen to 850, according to a newspaper report in Saudi Arabia.
Philippine consulate employees and Saudi immigration personnel worked overtime to accommodate the rising number of deportees – largely Filipinos who have overstayed their visas in the Kingdom, including a one-year-old baby of an overstayer.As of 10 pm Sunday (Jeddah time), 497 OFWs, including children, have been processed for repatriation, according to Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesman Claro Cristobal.
A headcount of Filipinos whose travel documents are being processed at the Port Area reached 597 as of 3:30 pm Sunday, but 150 others were transported later in the afternoon by bus to the processing center by nighttime and more were coming, Arab News reported on Monday. As of 8 pm, the report said, the number has risen to 850 persons.The Filipinos were temporary housed at the Haj Terminal, courtesy of the Saudi government. Cristobal said. Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo has authorized funding for the food of the OFWs until they are repatriated.
Ronald Concha & Charles Tabbu reported for Arab News that Welfare Officer Jake Samain said that those being readied for repatriation are Filipinos who have stayed their visas while in the Kingdom for Umrah or Haj, or for those whose contracts have been finished.Samain clarified that the repatriation program does not cover workers with unfinished contracts.
Consul General Pendosina Lomondot said the number of repatriates has swollen after local authorities in Jeddah agreed to accommodate overstayers wanting to return home.With that, the consulate also opened its facilities to other overstayers who wish to join those still in the site being used by the Saudi Passport and Immigration Department to “process" would-be repatriates.“The officials of the host government have granted our request to allow our distressed compatriots to leave and I am very grateful for that," the newspaper report quoted Lomondot who earlier requested for exit papers only for about 250 people who had sought help from the consulate on May 27.
The report said at least 52 women were moved to the deportation center near the airport on Sunday. One of them said they were told by Saudi officials to just get ready because their flight to Manila would be announced anytime.While the Filipinos were awaiting documentation for their repatriation, Lomondot warned against “fixers" who prey on unsuspecting workers by promising them easier deportation through the “backdoor" in exchange for a huge sum.
The distressed Filipinos started trooping to the embassy for assistance in facilitating their exit documentation on May 27, or just four days before the end of the two-month amnesty offered by Saudi Arabian government for thousands of illegal workers in the Kingdom to regularize their status or leave voluntarily.
Many of the workers, who came from different areas in Saudi Arabia, have already fallen victim to “fixers" who promised them easy exit through the “backdoor" in Jeddah where immigration police would purportedly come to process their exit papers. The workers waited under a bridge in Jeddah for their processing for deportation. But when the end of the amnesty period was drawing near and no immigration police has come to pick them up, the workers decided to seek refuge at the Philippine consulate for assistance.On the first day, there were just closer to a hundred Filipinos who went to the embassy, including those who ran away from abusive employers. The number increased to over 100 hundred on the second day.
The consulate officers had to solicit donations from civic organizations and kind-hearted individuals in the Kingdom for food and other basic necessities of the stranded Filipinos.Arab News said that while some tried to take advantage of the distressed, there were also plenty of kind-hearted compatriots who lend a helping hand and donated food.
Among these were the OFW Cooperative Council led by Wenifred Castolome, the Boholano Community Group of Red Bual, the OFW Family Coop under Dawood Engay, the Bag-ong Bicol Saro nin Jeddah of Danny Londonio, and staff of the Philippine Sunrise International School (PSIS).“We have to continue helping our distressed kababayans at least by giving them food. We have a crisis in our midst," said Castolome, whose group was among those who have been donated food to those holed up at the consulate since May 27. Other donors are encouraged to course their donations to the consulate’s Assistance to Nationals Section (ANS) headed by Vicky Salian. - GMANews.TV