Philippines to repatriate OFWs from Saudi Arabia amid COVID-19 pandemic

Arriving passengers walk past a thermal camera at Manila Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA). (AFP)
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Updated 18 June 2020

Philippines to repatriate OFWs from Saudi Arabia amid COVID-19 pandemic

  • 200 Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) who lost their jobs amid the COVID-19 pandemic will be repatriated
  • OFWs will receive food assistance from the Philippine Labor Office in Riyadh while waiting for their repatriation

MANILA: The Philippine government said it is now working to bring home some 200 Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in Riyadh who lost their jobs amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) administrator Hans Cacdac, in a TV interview on Thursday, said that given the workers’ current situation, “they must be repatriated, first and foremost.”

The OWWA official said that their target is to repatriate the migrant workers within a month, although this will depend on their exit visas. Cacdac expressed confidence, however, in the cooperation of the Saudi government with regard to processing the visas.

“We are now processing their cases so they can be included in the next batch of repatriates,” Cacdac said.

He also assured that the workers’ recruitment agency would be held accountable for not taking steps to provide assistance to the OFWs.

“We have already brought the matter before the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration,” Cacdac said.

For their immediate needs, Cacdac said the OFWs would receive food assistance from the Philippine Labor Office in Riyadh while waiting for their repatriation.

The office had to suspend operations after six of its officers and staff tested positive for COVID-19, but they still continue to respond to calls and provide services to Filipino workers.

Reynan Bancorro, one of the 200 OFWs to be repatriated, said that he had been out of work since lockdown was imposed last March.

Bancorro is among a group of OFWs working in an aluminum company. They have been out of work for three months now.

Cacdac said that those who were forced to pawn their passports would be provided with a travel document by the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh.

Meanwhile, the 353 additional Filipinos from Jeddah and other parts in the western region of Saudi Arabia have returned to Manila on Thursday on board a chartered Philippine Airlines flight arranged by the Philippine Consulate General in Jeddah.

Seventy-six of the 353 passengers were female wards from the Philippine Consulate’s “Bahay Kalinga” migrant shelter. Four have medical conditions but were certified as fit to travel, and two were minors. The rest of the passengers were OFWs who were economically displaced and became stranded in the Kingdom due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


Pakistan Hindus rally in Islamabad over India migrant deaths

Updated 25 September 2020

Pakistan Hindus rally in Islamabad over India migrant deaths

  • The dead migrants’ relatives have held small rallies in Pakistan’s southern Sindh province but this was the first time they had taken their demonstration to the country’s capital
  • The protesters accuse India’s secret service of poisoning the 11 Hindus

ISLAMABAD : Pakistan’s minority Hindus rallied late on Thursday in Islamabad, briefly clashing with the police, to protest the deaths of 11 members of a Hindu migrant family who died in India last month under mysterious circumstances.
Since then, the dead migrants’ relatives have held small rallies in Pakistan’s southern Sindh province but this was the first time they had taken their demonstration to the country’s capital, vowing to stage a sit-in near the Indian Embassy.
The protesters accuse India’s secret service of poisoning the 11 Hindus, who were found dead at a farmhouse in India’s Jodhpur district in Rajasthan state. The demonstrators arrived in Islamabad around midnight, chanting, “We want justice.” They briefly skirmished with officers who prevented them from reaching the embassy site.
After the Aug. 9 deaths, Indian media reports suggested the Hindu family members, originally from Pakistan, had taken their own lives. Official Islamabad says New Delhi had not shared any reports of the case.
Thursday’s rally was an unusual move for Pakistan’s Hindus, who have mostly lived without conflict with the country’s predominantly Muslim majority. Earlier this year under pressure from radical Muslims, Pakistani authorities halted construction of a Hindu temple in Islamabad.
Ramesh Kumar, a top leader of the Hindu community who led Thursday’s protest, met on Wednesday with Pakistan’s foreign minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, seeking his help in pressuring India to release results of the initial police probe into the case.
Pakistan has also asked for access to a Hindu worker who was at the Jodhpur farm at the time of the deaths, according to government officials.
In his meeting with Qureshi, Kumar said Shrimati Mukhi, the daughter of the head of the family that died, had levelled the poisoning accusations. She earlier this month told local media that India allegedly pressured the family to issue a statement denouncing Pakistan’s government. There was no official comment from India on the allegations.
Last week, Pakistan summoned an Indian diplomat to convey concerns over the “Jodhpur incident.” A subsequent ministry statement said India had “failed to share any substantive details regarding the cause and circumstances of the deaths” of the Hindus and asked for a comprehensive investigation.
Nuclear armed rivals Pakistan and India have a history of bitter relations. Pakistan’s military said Wednesday that two of its soldiers were killed by Indian fire in a cease-fire violation in the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir. The region is split between the two countries but claimed by both in its entirety. India and Pakistan have fought two out of their three wars over Kashmir since gaining independence in 1947.

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