Pro-OFW groups call for deployment ban in areas near Saudi-Yemen border
Pro-OFW groups on Friday called for a temporary deployment ban to areas near the Saudi Arabia-Yemen border due to constant bombings in the region.
Susan Ople, head of the Blas Ople Policy Center and Training Institute, a group that assists distressed OFWs, urged the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to deploy a team in the area to verify the concerns of Filipinos there.
She said based on information from some 5,000 Filipino workers in Najran, a city in southwestern Saudi Arabia near the border of Yemen, daily bombings there have increased from 15 to 80 and now occur at night.
"Yung mga bomba daw, dati, tuwing araw lang. Ngayon, kahit gabi. Hindi nila alam kung saan nagmumula. Nararamdaman na lang nila kasi nayayanig na lang kung saan sila natutulog," Ople said at a press briefing.
While most preferred to stay in the region, four Filipinos have already asked to be repatriated. Their employers agreed to let them return home on the condition that their employment costs were paid for.
Meanwhile, OFWs who wished to remain in Najran have asked the Philippine Consulate General to deploy a contingency team there that will help assess the needs of Filipinos and prepare them in case the situation worsens.
"The Philippine Consulate General, through Vice Consul Alexander Estomo, has been visiting Najran. But in and out lang sila... Because of the rising tensions, and the escalating exchange of artillery, 'yung Filipinos there would prefer to have a permanent contingent or team looking out for them," Ople said.
OFWs also requested the government to identify a safe zone and to create a bomb shelter where they could take refuge in during emergencies.
"Kung sobrang peligroso na, they can just go. Yung panawagan nila, kung saan sila pwedeng mag-evacuate," Ople said.
Filipino community leaders in Najran also asked the government to stop deploying Filipino workers there, noting that some domestic helpers sent there were unaware of the tense security situation in the area.
Jun Aguilar of the Filipino Migrant's Group said while war is unlikely to develop in the area, household service workers are especially vulnerable in hostile situations.
"Kapag may problema, may gulo, nagi-evacuate pati 'yung mga amo, doon sila kailangan. That's the time they are really needed. Talagang ilalaban ng employer 'yan na hindi pawalan basta-basta kahit na ang ating embahada ay nandidyan na at kinukuha 'yung mga household workers," he said.
As of 2013, there are 1,550,572 Filipinos in Saudi Arabia, based on government data. —KBK, GMA News