Migrants’ group accuse Saudi envoy of neglect, abuse of authority

Instead of helping the stranded OFWs, Ambassador Ezzedin Tago allegedly ordered that they be denied electricity and water and food and medicine donations be embargoed.

By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – Migrante International and families of overseas Filipino workers are calling on the Department of Foreign Affairs to recall and investigate allegations of neglect and abuse of authority of Philippine ambassador to Saudi Arabia Ezzedin Tago.

In a letter addressed to Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, Migrante International chair Garry Martinez said they received complaints and allegations against Tago from stranded Filipino workers in Saudi.

“Stranded OFWs are accusing him of ordering the ongoing food, water and medicine blockade being implemented by the Philippine Embassy. They also said Tago took two children from the campout under the guise of giving them medical attention,” Martinez said in the letter, adding that Filipinos there later found out that the two children were only temporarily housed inside the embassy and were not given any medical attention.

Martinez added that Filipinos said Tago employed “goons” to “harass and threaten OFWs who participated in the campout. The harassment and threats continue because no action has been taken by Philippine authorities to stop them.”

These allegations, according to Migrante International, merit Tago’s immediate recall and subsequent investigation by the Philippine government through the DFA.

“It is very obvious that Tago does not enjoy the trust nor confidence of Saudi OFWs and therefore needs to be replaced. His past and present attitude towards OFWs in distress is unbecoming of any ambassador or officer representing the Philippine government,” Martinez said in the letter.

For nearly a month now, stranded Filipino workers in Saudi Arabia have been holding a tent city both in Riyadh and Jeddah to press the government to process their repatriation. They fear that with the full implementation of Nitaqat or the Saudization policy– where companies are required to hire Saudi nationals to comprise 10 percent of their entire workforce – they, undocumented OFWs, might be sent to jail.

Bittersweet return

So far, only a handful of stranded Filipinos were finally repatriated. In a statement, Migrante said 15 Filipinos were repatriated from Riyadh on May 18. There were also 20 Filipino women who were repatriated from Jeddah.

Martinez said OFWs are happy to be home.

“Their repatriation, however, is bittersweet because they are still very concerned about the welfare and fate of thousands of OFWs who are still at the tent cities,” he added.

Martinez said that at the rate the Philippine government is processing the repatriations, “only a minority of the stranded OFWs will be repatriated until July 4, the Saudi-imposed deadline for the resumption of crackdowns. The government has to act faster.”

Food, medical blockades

Migrante International said their organization is still receiving reports that the Philippine embassy is still blocking food and medical supplies for those who joined the “tent cities.”

The food and medical supplies that are being denied the stranded OFWs, Martinez said, are from not only Filipinos working and residing nearby, but also from Saudi nationals who are concerned about their conditions. “Their cars would stop near the tent cities and they would drop off food and water.”

But all donations are being embargoed by embassy officials. “They want them to go hungry,” Martinez told Bulatlat.com. Electricity and the source of water was also cut off from them, he added.

He added that Filipinos there are really determined to fight and to press the government to work on their repatriation.

“Why are they sending these Filipinos away when the embassy should serve as the Filipinos’ sanctuary?” he asked.

Martinez emphasized that this situation has already turned into a humanitarian crisis. Members of Migrante, he added, reported to them that this scenario is only happening to Filipinos when there are other nationalities who are also stranded and undocumented in Saudi Arabia. Processing of their repatriation appears to be more efficient and faster.

He added, “He [President Aquino] said he will tread the righteous path. But he never said this path will be rocky and dark for OFWs to pass through.” ()

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