Press Release
February 5, 2008

Jinggoy to GMA: "Order speedy repatriation of Filipinos stranded in Jeddah!"

Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada today pressed President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to immediately order the repatriation of at least 111 Filipinos who have been stranded for months now under a bridge in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia - jobless, hungry, and with a number of them already ill.

The Filipinos, including children, have been at the Kandara District flyover since last year, waiting and hoping for the Saudi police to just arrest and deport them, and not to be investigated and detained for abandoning their employer-hosts who abused them.

"These Filipinos have become seemingly helpless in their situation after running away from employers who either inflicted physical harm on them, did not pay their salaries in full, violated their work contracts, or even tried to molest a number of them including their children," said Estrada, concurrent chair of the Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development and of the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on Labor and Employment,

The senator likewise noted reports that the stranded Filipinos were victims of "fixers" who collected "fees" from them in amounts ranging from 500 Saudi Riyals (equivalent to about P5,529) to SR 2,500 (P27,646), in exchange for a promised "backdoor exit" from Jeddah, but, upon payment of the fees were just dropped off near the Al-Khandara flyover supposedly to wait to be picked up by immigration agents for deportation. They have been there under the flyover for months now together with other "illegal aliens" waiting for deportation.

Estrada also expressed alarm over reports by the Saudi Arabia chapter of the group Migrante International, that some of the stranded Filipinos trooped to the Philippine consulate to appeal for help but were told that they have to observe "due process" for their repatriation, claiming that they were "illegals" since they escaped from their employers.

"First and foremost, they are Filipinos, and mostly comprising of workers who contribute to our economy. Secondly, they have their valid reasons for abandoning their employer-hosts. Our government must now immediately repatriate these Filipinos stranded in Jeddah, include the workers among them in our reintegration program, evaluate their skills, and, help them find alternative jobs here in the country," Estrada said.

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