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Pinoy Abroad

66 stranded OFWs return home from Jeddah

September 15, 2009 1:49pm
Almost 200 Filipino workers still remain at the Hajj terminal in Jeddah - a safe house temporarily provided by the Philippine Consulate for stranded workers who are awaiting repatriation. - Ronaldo Concha
A total of 66 stranded Filipino workers have finally returned to the Philippines from Jeddah after they were repatriated by Saudi deportation authorities, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Tuesday.

In a statement, the DFA said the group consisted of 24 adults and 42 children. They arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport at 6 a.m. Tuesday.

According to Anthony Basil, administration staff of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), most of these workers were runaways from Riyadh and the Eastern Province.

But instead of seeking help from the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh or the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Alkhobar, many of the workers opted to travel to Jeddah in hopes of being sent home for free by Saudi authorities through a deportation process.

Some of them even lived under the Khandara Overpass, along with other nationals such as Indians, Pakistanis, and Bangladeshis, who are also trying to attract the attention of Saudi police so that they would be brought to their countries.

They were transferred to the Hajj terminal after they camped out in front of the Philippine Consulate General in Jeddah, demanding repatriation.

The DFA said Friday that they were the ones who recommended the case of the OFWs to the Saudi immigration. DFA undersecretary for migrant workers affairs Esteban Conejos Jr. said 170 of the workers would soon be repatriated.

According to the Philippine Consulate General in Jeddah, a group consisting of 62 females, six males, and three children is expected to arrive on Wednesday at 11 a.m. This will be the third group of Filipinos to be repatriated from Jeddah. The first batch brought home 100 workers while the second repatriated 66.

At present, there are still 123 male and 52 female stranded OFWs awaiting repatriation at the Hajj terminal.

The Filipino community in Saudi Arabia is estimated to have reached 1.2 million last year and the figure continues to increase. It is also still the top destination among overseas Filipino workers, data from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration showed. - Kimberly Jane T. Tan and Ronaldo Z. Concha, GMANews.TV
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