Press Release
November 23, 2006

OFWs from Kazakhstan recount ordeal to Gordon

A second batch of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), numbering 98, arrived yesterday morning (Nov. 23) in Manila from Kazakhstan to escape being caught in the middle of a bloody conflict between Kazakh and Turkish workers there.

The OFWs, who were employed by Bechtel International in Tengiz, Kazakhstan, arrived at 9:40 a.m. aboard a KLM Royal Dutch Airlines flight at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

Last Nov. 9, the first batch of OFWs out of Kazakhstan arrived at the NAIA via Emirates Flight EK322. They paid Senator Richard J. Gordon a visit to thank him for working for their safe return to the Philippines. The returnees also recounted their ordeal to the senator and chairman of the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC).

"We just had to bring them home lest they suffer the same fate as the Turkish workers who were massacred in that country," said Gordon.

"One thing is for sure. Our OFWs were traumatized by the on-and-off riots between Turkish and Kazakh workers as they constantly feared being targeted also," he added.

As PNRC chair, Gordon asked the help of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to ensure the safety of the OFWs and their repatriation. Likewise, Gordon asked Bechtel to shoulder the airfare back home of the OFWs.

At the height of the conflict, the distressed OFWs in Kazakhstan , as well as their relatives in the Philippines, contacted Gordon for help, mainly through text messages. In Geneva , Switzerland at the time for a board meeting of the international Red Cross, Gordon immediately tapped his contacts to help the trapped OFWs.

"In line with the mission of the Red Cross to alleviate human suffering and protect life, it was my duty to help our OFWs in Kazakhstan and ensure their safe return to our country," said Gordon.

Ricardo Ramos, who spoke on behalf of the OFWs who returned from Kazakhstan last Nov. 9, told Gordon that they were also subjected to threat and intimidation and that Bechtel failed to heighten security measures at its Tengiz plant.

He said that many of the OFWs still remaining in Kazakhstan want to return home despite Bechtel's move to increase their salaries by 50 cents per hour and despite slashing their working hours from 72 hours to 66 per week.

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