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Stop criminalizing distressed OFWs fleeing quarantine facilities —migrants’ group

A migrants’ group on Thursday denounced the criminalization of repatriated overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who escape from quarantine facilities, saying these workers are themselves traumatized by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a statement on Thursday, Migrante International chairperson Joanna Concepcion claimed there was neglect on part of the administration in assisting the returning OFWs.

“Without the financial aid, psychosocial support, medical and transportation services that OFWs deserve to get, the Duterte regime’s temporary quarantine shelter are nothing but detention facilities,” she said.

“It is such a shame that OFWs traumatized by their experiences abroad and in local quarantine facilities are now being treated like criminals by their own government,” she added.

Migrante called out Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. after he urged on Twitter the arrest of the OFWs who escaped quarantine.

“It’s hard to forget the tragic fate that befell one OFW from Kuwait who committed suicide inside a temporary quarantine facility in Pasay City,” the group said.

Recently, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) reported that some OFWs escaped from quarantine facilities.

According to authorities, they will be charged and arrested with the violation of Bayanihan to Heal as One Act for ignoring health protocols in quarantine.

Some of the stranded OFWs complained about their continued stay at the facilities, exceeding the recommended 14-day quarantine. Some OFWS have been there for over a month.

Under the protocol set by the Inter-Agency Task Force, repatriated OFWs have to wait for the results of their coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) tests before they can return home.

But, concerned agencies including the Department of the Health (DOH) admitted that there was a delay in the issuance of the tests results caused by encoding issues and slow pace of testing.

The Philippine Red Cross has been processing PCR-based tests for more than 20,000 OFWs. On Wednesday, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. said around 13,000 are ready to be sent home.

“Kaya nga po patuloy na bubulabugin ko po ang mga ahensiya para hindi na magtagal ang proseso. Minsan po kasi, nariyan na ang result, hindi lang nare-relay agad,” Roque added.

He said that arriving OFWs can reach as much as 80,000, counting those OFWs who work in cruise ships.

On Wednesday, chief implementer of the government’s COVID-19 response Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. reported that 42,000 OFWs returning in May and June could overwhelm the country’s isolation facilities. —LDF, GMA News