By John Leonard Monterona,
(Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator)
We have been receiving complaints from jailed Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Saudi Arabia who claimed they have already completed their jail term. Thus, we would like to get the attention of Department of Foreign Affairs and the various Philippine diplomatic posts to work for their immediate repatriation.
Migrante chapters in Saudi Arabia have already received 12 requests for assistance since last month from jailed OFWs who have claimed that they already completed their jail term.
Some of the jailed OFWs are languishing at Malaz Central jail in Saudi’s capital Riyadh.
Though some admitted committing petty crimes such as possession and drinking alcohol, gambling and ‘mixed’ crowd which is prohibited, but they have asserted that they have been in jail for a year and have already completed their respective sentence; others insisted that they were framed up.
Usually, petty crimes are punishable within 6 months to 1 year imprisonment plus a hundred of lashes, after which the jailed migrant worker will be sent home after completion of his jail term.
It’s a pity that a number of our fellow OFWs, who have been in jail for violating the customary laws of the host country, though they have already completed their sentence, are still languishing in various jails in Saudi Arabia and in other mid-east countries.
When a jailed OFW is still languishing in jail after completing his jail term, then his right for immediate repatriation or deportation has been grossly violated.
During several case dialogs of Migrante with the PHL embassy in Riyadh, we have pointed out that a regular review of the case profile of each and every jailed OFWs must be undertaken to identify those who have already completed their respective jail terms and immediately arrange for their deportation with the local authorities.
Migrante-ME cited, based on jailed OFWs account, there are about 200 of them in Malaz Central jail, while a conservative estimate of 8,000 jailed OFWs in various jails in the Middle East.
We fully understand the need to beef up the PHL diplomatic post of capable staff to attend on the numerous cases of OFWs, thus we have been calling the Aquino government and the DFA and DoLE to consider deploying additional consular and labor staff but until now we are not receiving a favorable response.
On December 18, Migrant workers around the world and their organizations will observe the International Migrants Day. We will convey again our challenge to the Aquino government along with the host governments to work for genuine OFWs protection, uphold and defends migrant workers rights and welfare.
-John Leonard Monterona
Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator