Saturday, November 1, 2008

February 6, 2008

Pinoys stranded in Jeddah to encamp at RP consulate
02/06/2008 07:57 PM

Eighty-four Filipinos living in tents for nearly two months under a bridge in Jeddah trooped to the Philippine consulate Wednesday night (morning in Saudi Arabia) to set up camps there.

On Tuesday, 16 Filipino women and a child were picked up by immigration agents and brought to the deportation area about five kilometers away.They were among more than a hundred Filipinos stranded in Saudi Arabia after running away from abusive employers, while others had expired visas.

The women and a two-and-a-half year-old girl boarded the immigration bus, along with other nationalities.When five buses, four of which were already full, came on Wednesday morning, the immigration agents refused to pick up the Filipinos under the bridge in Al-Khandara district.

They were promised to be picked up on Saturday. After the buses left, the remaining Filipinos (72 men, 10 women and two children) decided to pack their things and went to the consulate to set up their tents in its premises.

The consulate is about 10 minutes by car from Al-Khandara bridge.The Filipinos came from Riyadh and the Eastern Province. Many of them have fallen victims to fixers who promised them “backdoor exit" in Jeddah in exchange for money.They were taken to Al-Khandara flyover under which they put up tents.

They were later moved under a nearby bridge where they were told to wait for immigration agents to pick them up for deportation.Eric Jocson, one of the stranded Filipinos, said five buses came to pick up the stranded foreign nationals who have been staying in tents for nearly two months.

The immigration agents promised to return and pick up the other stranded foreign nationals.Fernando Francisco, who serves as spokesman of the stranded Filipinos, said: “Nakakapanghinayang na hindi kami nakasakay (lahat) pero okay lang dahil ang importante ay ang mga babae ay nakasakay." A few other women were left behind because they came late for the bus. "Napuno na ang bus kaya siguro hindi na pinapasok dahil sa late na sila dumating," Francisco said.Last Sunday, 62 of the stranded Filipinos trooped to the Philippine consulate general to appeal for their repatriation.

Consul General Ezzedin Tago faced the Filipinos who took the opportunity to air their grievances and dismay over their situation under the bridge. Among the reasons the Filipinos cited for running away from their employers were non-payment of, delayed or reduced salaries, maltreatment, harassment and other acts they could no longer tolerate.There were women who complained of having experienced sexual abuse.

"We suffered enough. We waited long. Our families back home are also suffering. What we need is immediate help from our government to send us home," Francisco said.Another stranded Filipino, Carlos Rebutar, said: "For us, the only solution is for the consul general to send us home even without due process because we know that it is not possible. We have no other option but to camp out inside the consulate in case the result of the meeting is not good."

Andrew M Ociones, chairperson of Migrante-Saudi Arabia chapter, advised the stranded Filipinos to unite and coordinate with each other in their efforts to be sent home."They can count on our support in terms of calls to the consulate to a act on their demands," he said.

Consul General Tago informed the Filipinos that he had talked to the head of the diplomatic security and that he was offered a legal process where they will pressure the employers to issue exit permits to the Filipinos so they could be sent home.Tago said he had also visited the head of Saudi’s consular affairs in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and submitted the summary of the grievances of the stranded Filipinos. He said he asked for help in legally repatriating them.Further,

Tago said he had asked the head of Saudi’s immigration and appealed for humanitarian consideration in allowing the Filipinos to leave and rejoin their families in the Philippines.Francisco said 68 men, seven women and two young boys are still awaiting transfer from the Khandara bridge.He said that they are hoping that the Philippine consulate will help send them back home.

"They already sent home our kababayans before and I don’t see any reason why they can not do it again. They did it in 2001 and also last year when they sent more than 900 stranded Filipinos, so I think that they can do it again," Francisco said.Tago promised to do his best in resolving the cases involving the stranded Filipinos.

"I hope na ma-resolve ang kaso nila agad and I was assured that the deportation will look into their cases and I just heard that there is some positive action and we pray to the almighty and with everyone's cooperation na maayos ang mga pangyayari," Tago said. - Ronaldo Concha, GMANews.TV

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