Solidarity campout for stranded OFWs gain ground

April 30, 2013

First day of the solidarity campout for OFWs stranded in Saudi Arabia. The family members of stranded OFWs, as well as Migrante Party-list, called on the resignation of DFA officials amid the worsening "humanitarian crisis" of OFWs in Saudi. (Boy Bagwis)

First day of the solidarity campout for OFWs stranded in Saudi Arabia. The family members of stranded OFWs, as well as Migrante Party-list, called on the resignation of DFA officials amid the worsening “humanitarian crisis” of OFWs in Saudi. (Boy Bagwis)

More relatives of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) stranded in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia are joining in the “solidarity campout” in front of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) in Manila.

On the second day of the solidarity campout, Migrante Party-list announced that relatives of hundreds of OFWs camped out in Jeddah (their campout is called “Jeddah Tent City”) to reiterate their demand for free, immediate and mass repatriation of their loved ones.

Said Garry Martinez, Migrante Party-list second nominee and Migrante International chairperson: “The families that came in yesterday and today have stranded OFW relatives not only in Jeddah but also in Riyadh, Dammam and Al Khobar.”

He added that more OFWs from the Jeddah Tent City have called on their kin to support the solidarity campout, which has blossomed into various nationwide protests in different provinces in the country.

“They are more resolved now more than ever to stand their ground and to rely on collective action to make the Aquino government listen to their demands,said Martinez.

During the first day of the solidarity campout, families of stranded OFWs staged simultaneous protest actions at the OWWA satellite office in Lucena and the DFA satellite office in Davao City.

“We expect more protest actions from families to erupt for as long as the Aquino government continues to display inaction,” he said.Martinez announced that families in General Santos will also be holding a rally at the DFA satellite office in the province today, while families from Central Luzon will troop to the DFA satellite office in Pampanga on May 2.

Dialogue with DFA?

Jeddah Tent City of stranded OFWs

Jeddah Tent City of stranded OFWs

Upon putting up camp in front of the DFA office, the top three department officials — “the Three Kings of DFA,” said Martinez — sought a dialogue with Migrante and the OFWs’ relatives.

Asec. Raul Hernandez, Usec. Rafael Seguis and even DFA Sec. Alberto del Rosario, at different times, went to the campout to talk to the families.

“For the longest time, however grave the situation of an OFW, those three would always speak to the media about the plight of OFWs but couldn’t be bothered to hold audience with them. (Their approaching the campout) is in itself is a victory and the families realize this,” explained Martinez.

Martinez said the DFA officials wanted them to leave the solidarity campout as a condition to a dialogue. “But we said no,” he said.

Migrante said that in a dialogue, they will continue to insist that all families of OFWs present at the campout should be accommodated. “They want to limit the number of people to five and we cannot agree to that. All the families here deserve to voice out their demands,” said Martinez.

Martinez explained that what is now happening to OFWs in Jeddah and other parts of Saudi Arabia is a “humanitarian crisis, a calamity.”

“We cannot simply accept that the OFWs and families are still being made to wait in deference to these so-called processes. What the government needs to show now is political will, plain and simple. Since the Tent City was put up, not one OFW has been repatriated. Not a single one,” Martinez said.

He also said that the stranded OFWs insist to the Philippine consulates that they be transferred to adequate shelters.

Tragic death

72-year-old OFW Mateo Amaro, who allegedly died while being stranded in Saudi

72-year-old OFW Mateo Amaro, who allegedly died while being stranded in Saudi

Meanwhile, one of the OFWs seeking assistance from the Philippine consulate in Jeddah for his repatriation died last week, according to reports from Migrante in Saudi Arabia.

Migrante Party-list Vice Chairperson John Leonard Monterona identified the OFW as a certain Danilo Grefadilyo, a native from Sorsogon.

Monterona added that per report, OFW Grefadilyo died inside the PH consulate building where the Filipino Workers’ Resource Center (FWRC) is also located.

“His exact age can’t be known yet as of this posting, but it is believed that he is more than 60 year old,” Monterona citing reports from Migrante colleagues in Jeddah, where around 2,500 stranded OFWs have camped out beside the PH Consulate building since April 10, 2013.

“From those who have known OFW Grefadilyo and his friends, they told us that he has been seeking assistance for repatriation from the PH Consulate since last year as he was diagnosed with ulcer and being old already,” Monterona added.

For background on the plight of stranded OFWs in Saudi Arabia:

Article: Ang bagong kahulugan ng ‘katas ng Saudi’

Video: Migrant stories – Stranded in Saudi Arabia

UPDATE (3PM): Photos of the second day of  the solidarity campout:

Second day of the solidarity campout in front of the Department of Foreign Affairs. (Boy Bagwis)

Second day of the solidarity campout in front of the Department of Foreign Affairs. (Boy Bagwis)

More relatives of stranded OFWs came and supported the campout on its second day. (Boy Bagwis)

More relatives of stranded OFWs came and supported the campout on its second day. (Boy Bagwis)

Relatives of stranded OFWs and their supporters, during the second day of the solidarity campout. (Boy Bagwis)

Relatives of stranded OFWs and their supporters, during the second day of the solidarity campout. (Boy Bagwis)

The relatives pressed for immediate and free repatriation of OFWs victimized by crackdowns in Saudi Arabia. (Boy Bagwis)

The relatives pressed for immediate and free repatriation of OFWs victimized by crackdowns in Saudi Arabia. (Boy Bagwis)

Placards carrying the relatives' and Migrante's calls. (Boy Bagwis)

Placards carrying the relatives’ and Migrante’s calls. (Boy Bagwis)