A network of migrant advocates, including overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and their families, women and children's rights advocates, church and religious networks and sectoral groups today expressed alarm over the series of death incidents of OFWs in government shelters in the Middle East.
Bring Them Home alliance raised the alarm after news broke out of OFWs dying of illnesses after spending a long time languishing in government-run shelters in the Middle East while awaiting repatriation.
According to Gina Esguerra, Migrante International secretary-general and co-convenor of Bring Them Home alliance, they have received reports of at least two OFW deaths due to unassisted illnesses since February. The latest, Lilian Prestano, 44-year-old, died of heart failure at the Bahay Kalinga in Saudi last June 4.
"We are very concerned, we demand the government to immediately look into these cases. Government shelters abroad should serve as refuge and places for protection for our OFWs in distress. Mukhang kabaligtaran ang nangyayari kung namamatay ang ating mga OFW dahil sa sakit, mukhang hindi sila inaalagaan sa mga shelter," she said.
Esguerra said that aside from medical assistance for stranded OFWs with health problems, the government can prevent such incidents if it would address as top priority their requests for immediate repatriation. "They are placed in a situation where they are very vulnerable to illnesses because of cramped and dismal conditions, not to mention depression and emotional stress."
Of present, she said, there is a growing number of OFWs stranded abroad and awaiting immediate repatriation from the Philippine government. Among them, Migrante International is currently handling the following:
- The cases of at least 933 stranded OFWs awaiting immediate repatriation in shelters and/or camped near consulates and embassies in Jeddah, Jordan, Oman, Syria and Lebanon;
- The cases of more than 200 undocumented OFWs who filed for Amiri Amnesty and presently stranded in the Filipino Workers Resource Center (FWRC) in Kuwait;
Esguerra added that also urgently awaiting the facilitation of their repatriation are:
- At least 384 jailed OFWs who are in need of legal assistance because they have already served their full sentences but remain incarcerated in different jails in the Middle East; and,
- Those waiting for clear plans from the government for evacuation and repatriation in light of the escalating crisis in Yemen, Syria, Bahrain, Kuwait and Libya.
Bring Them Home alliance was formed on December 2010 with the aim to raise awareness and broaden support for OFWs in distress, in particular, those calling on the government to facilitate their immediate repatriation for various reasons – human trafficking, illegal recruitment, human rights violations, and in times of calamities and war/conflicts.
Bring Them Home will be conducting educational and awareness-raising activities, campaign and advocacy actions, lobbying in government agencies and other actions to culminate on July 25, President Aquino's second State of the Nation Address. ###