Group of OFWs living in prison-like condition in Saudi Arabia


A group of OFWs is living in prison-like condition in Saudi Arabia and working on jobs completely different from what was promised to them by their recruiter in the Philippines, an exclusive report by GMA News’ JP Soriano on “24 Oras” said Tuesday.

Butchoy Halasan, one of the OFWs, said a recruitment agency promised him a monthly pay of 1,600 riyal or P20,000 plus good accommodations for work related to graphic design.

His companions, former teachers and IT experts, were promised the same deal in their respective fields, but all ended up working as hotel cleaners and other low-paying jobs upon their arrival in Saudi Arabia, the report said.

These OFWs were also forced to live with almost a thousand other Filipinos in the building of Old Bhara Abu Sarhad International Recruiting Agency and share instant noodles and rice as their daily meal.

“Halos sa lapag na lang po yung iba natutulog sa sobrang siksikan. Halos isang libo na po kasi ang tao dito na Pilipino, ‘yung pagkain, sir, puro noodles na lang at parang hindi mo na makakain kasi nga parang kaning baboy na, sir,” Halasan said.

Wise Recruitment Agency, the firm that allegedly deployed Halasan and the others, declined to comment until they verify the authenticity of the video and photo evidence posted by Halasan on Facebook.

The video, which already had over 73,000 “shares” as of posting time, also shows the Filipino workers sleeping on the rooftop.

The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) forwarded the evidence to the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Jeddah and the recruitment agency after the OFWs’ relatives told the agency of their situation.

Lawyer Rosemarie Duquez of the POEA Anti-Illegal Recruitment Branch said the recruitment agency is responsible for the well-being of their deployed workers.

“Dapat po yan sagutin ng agency. Kung talagang wala silang trabaho ‘pag dating duon, walang accommodation at yung food ay ganun po nga ang klase, kailangan pong mag-explain ng agency,” Duquez said.

Licensed recruitment agencies must also double-check the authenticity of job orders to ensure that deployed workers are employed in the field they wish to work in.

Meanwhile, Jun Rasul, the Philippine Overseas Labor Attachés in Jeddah, said he has already asked the concerned OFWs to prepare a formal written complaint so that they could go after their recruiter. —Rie Takumi with Ronaldo Concha/KBK, GMA News