Friday, October 31, 2008

January 23, 2008

Envoy warns distressed OFWs vs fixers in Jeddah
01/23/2008 07:57 PM

The Philippine consulate general in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, has advised stranded Filipinos to be cautious against fixers who pretend to offer help in exchange for huge fees.Consul General Ezzedin Tago issued the advisory as runaway Filipino workers wait at the Kandara District flyover wait to be picked up by Saudi immigration agents for deportation.

operating around the Kandara flyover offer distressed expatriates repatriation services in exchange for huge amount of money.

According to the advisory, fixers claim they are authorized by the consulate, or pose as agents of the foreign post. They go around offering arrangements for exit from Saudi Arabia through the deportation facility which is euphemistically called "the backdoor channel." Victims are made to pay an amount ranging SR 5OO (P5, 529) to SR 2,500 (P27,646) or even higher in some instances.

Tago said that the consulate has not authorized anyone to offer any such arrangement, and more so, to collect such fees.He said the consulate had received reports that fixers often leave their victims at some locations such as the Sharafiya near the Mahmoud Saeed Mall, or in open spaces under bridges, believed to be pick-up stations of Saudi deportation personnel.

Tago added that “the backdoor channel" is reserved only for alien workers who had been released from detention and for Muslims with expired Umrah and Hajj visas.He warned that those who have run away from their employers were risking arrest, investigation, and detention.Filipino pilgrims who have proofs of their identity and Hajj status should seek assistance from the consulate, he said. Runaway workers should seek the assistance of the Philippine Labor Office for the settlement of their cases.

Prior to the release of the advisory, some 60 Filipinos coming from different places in Saudi Arabia had begun gathering beside the Flyover in Kandara District.Stranded OFWsFilipino workers who claim to have been abused by their employers in Saudi Arabia have sought refuge under the Kandara Flyover, hoping that the police would arrest and deport them, GMA News’ 24-Oras reported Wednesday.“Matagal na kami dito. Karamihan sa amin may sakit na. Kailangan namin ng tulong ng gobyerno lalong-lalo na dahil wala kaming trabaho, pagkain (We have been here for a long time. Most of us are already sick.

We need government help especially that we no longer have jobs, food)," Fernando Francisco, one of the OFWs, told GMA News.He said his employer refused to send him home when he resigned. "I complained but I was not given any assistance that’s why I ran away."Imelda Remis from Davao said she run away from her work because her sponsor tried to rape her.

An OFW who asked not to be identified said they paid SR1, 800 (P19, 905) to a fixer who brought them to Jeddah for deportation.But the fixer placed most of them in a safe house before they were brought to the Kandara Flyover.In May 2007, a group of OFWs stayed under a bridge on King Fahad Road Sitten where they patiently waited for representatives from the embassy’s passport department to take them to the airport for deportation .

In that year, over 900 distressed OFWs were deported through the help of former Consul General Mohammed Pendosina Lomondot by using personal diplomacy.Meanwhile, Ambassador Antonio Villamor said in a telephone interview that he supported the advisory Tago issued.I am 100 percent in support of of the advisory, said Villamor, adding that "the embassy and the consulate are always for the welfare of the OFWs.

But we also have our limitations. We can extend help anytime, but it must be through legal means. "We don’t want to commit ourselves to help through illegal means because that is against our good relation with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. We cannot correct a wrongdoing with another wrongdoing," he added. - Bong Concha, with report from Mark Ubalde, GMANews.TV

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