John Leonard Monterona, regional coordinator of Migrante International said he was shocked after seeing OFWs living “in an empty swimming pool with only tarpaulin serving as roof.”
“Wondering how it is like to be living in a villa or a lodging house in Saudi Arabia during summer when the temperature ranges about 48 to 52 degrees Celsius at its peak? How about if actually some of the tenants, who are distress and stranded OFWs, are not living inside the villa, but in an empty swimming pool with only tarpaulin serving as their roof? Would you survive for a couple of months or three or even a year inside that villa?” Monterona asked after inspecting the area.
Monterona said most of the Filipinos there were victims of labor malpractices such as non-payment of salaries, illegal salary deductions, no Iqama or residence permit provided by their employer, and others had been abandoned by their employers for various reasons.
“They’re like sardines in cans. The only difference is that sardines in cans are usually stored in an appropriate place such as storeroom, secured. And the stranded OFWs are just left under harsh environment. We really need to get first-hand information about the condition of the stranded OFWs inside that villa. We have been receiving complaints from the stranded few months ago.”
“Wala man lang silang bed foams. Ang ginagamit nila ay karton lang panlapat ng kanilang katawan laban sa lamig o init ng semento ng swimming pool .(They don’t even have bed foams. They are just using cardboard boxes on top of the cold or hot flooring of the swimming pool).”Monterona narrated.
He said the limited supply of food is threatening the health of the Filipinos in the shelter.
“Even the food donations coming from various OFW groups are not distributed evenly among them. May alegasyon na nawawala ang mga eto at hindi naibibigay sa mga stranded OFWs,”(They allege that food donations are missing or are not given to stranded OFWs) Monterona claimed. “We want this investigated. And of course, we are expecting the end result is improvement of the situation of the stranded OFWs at the halfway shelter.”
He said more than 50 women, some of them with children, are also in Bahay Kalinga in Riyadh.
Monterona said the Philippine government should immediately act on the problems. He said some 1.2 million OFWs are working in Saudi Arabia.
“The Department of Foreign Affairs, the Department of Labor and Employment, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, the Philippine Senate and House of Representatives committee on labor and overseas workers affairs, and even the Office of the President should conduct an investigation not only on the deplorable condition of OFWs in Saudi Arabia, but as well as seriously work for their swift and mass repatriation,” he said.
Monterona said the villa is rented and managed by the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Riyadh.
There was no immediate statement from the Filipino government about the report made by Migrante.