DAVAO CITY – Sardines might be better off than stranded overseas Filipino workers in a villa in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

An official of the Migrante International who is based in Riyadh got a first hand account of the OFWs situation in a halfway shelter for male OFWs on Friday. John Leonard Monterona, regional coordinator of Migrante International said he was shocked after seeing OFWs living “in an empty swimming pool with only tarpaulin serving as roof.”

In a statement released on Monday, Monterona described the situation of around 120 OFWs as that of “sardines in cans”.

“They’re like sardines in cans. The only difference is that sardines in cans are usually stored in an appropriate place such as storeroom, secured. Whereas the stranded OFWs were just left under a harsh environment like living and sleeping in empty swimming pools inside a villa,” Monterona said.

Monterona said he was able to get inside the villa by pretending to be a newcomer who also had sought assistance.

Monterona said OFWs who are staying in the villa are “mostly victims of labor malpractice such as non-payment of salaries, illegal salary deductions, no Iqama or residence permit provided by their employer, and some were abandoned by their employers who declared their business bankrupt.”

The OFWs are also reportedly using only cardboard boxes as there are no mattresses provided for them.

“Wala man lang silang bed foams. Ang ginagamit nila ay karton lang panlapat ng kanilang katawan laban sa lamig o init ng semento ng swimming pool (They don’t even have bed foams. They are just using cardboard boxes on top of the cold or hot flooring of the swimming pool),” Monterona said adding that temperature ranges from 48 to 52 degree Celsius during summer in Saudi Arabia.

Monterona added that the stranded OFWs also informed him about the limited food supply they have been receiving from Philippine officials.

“Even the food donations coming from various OFW groups are not distributed evenly among them. May alegasyon na nawawala ang mga eto at hindi naibibigay sa mga stranded OFWs (They allege that food donations are missing or are not given to stranded OFWs),” Monterona claimed.

Monterona said they want the Philippine government agencies to investigate on the matter.

Monterona said that aside from the 120 male stranded OFWs, there are still around 50 female ward and at least four children inside the Bahay Kalinga, also in Riyadh.

Monterona said the villa is rented and managed by the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Riyadh.

Saudi Arabia remains to be the number one country destination of Filipino migrant workers. Monterona said an estimated 1.2-M OFWs are working in Saudi Arabia. (davaotoday.com)

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