Over 3,000 OFWS jailed, 800 others arrived home dead – DFA report

Published by rudy Date posted on February 12, 2014

More than 3,000 Filipino workers have been in jail since last year while 800 others have died, many of them in accidents and due to illness, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said in its annual report.

Every year, hundreds of Filipino workers leave the country in search for better opportunities abroad. Many have succeeded but some have come home in coffins in crushing personal tragedies that have become so commonplace they seldom make news at home.

From January to December 2013, the DFA, in its yearly accomplishment report released Tuesday, said 883 remains of overseas Filipinos were repatriated to the Philippines while a total of 3,154 were in prison as of December of the same year.

Most cases of deaths and imprisonment are in the Gulf region – a key destination for Filipino workers.

Topping the list of countries with the most number of deaths are Saudi Arabia with 382 reported fatalities, United Arab Emirates (93), Qatar (85), Kuwait (47), and Bahrain (30). In Asia, Japan and Singapore had the most number of deaths with 12 each while in Europe, the United Kingdom had 17.

Common causes of deaths are illness and accidents, Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez told GMA News Online.

Jailed Pinoys

The Middle East again had the highest rate of Filipinos who were jailed for various offenses followed by Southeast Asia then China.

Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Rafael Seguis, who served in several Philippine diplomatic posts in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia as ambassador, said common offenses committed by Filipinos are possession of liquor, which is banned in Arab nations; theft or embezzlement; immorality; drug trafficking; murder; and traffic violation.

Middle East states with the most number of Filipinos in prison are Saudi Arabia (971), United Arab Emirates (312), Qatar (51), Lebanon (45), Kuwait (37), Bahrain (21), Jordan (18), and Iran (14). In Asia, China had a total of 258 jailed Filipinos, mostly due to drug trafficking.

South East Asian nations with high number of detainees for drug trafficking and immigration offenses are in Malaysia (987), Indonesia (123), Thailand (54), Vietnam (22), Bruenei (21), and Cambodia (10).

All over the world, 634 Filipinos were detained for drug trafficking and of this figure, 347 were women and 287 men, the DFA said.

Exporter of labor

The report also showed a decline in the number of Filipino sailors being kidnapped in the pirate-infested African waters over the last four years. From its height of 222 hostages in 2009, the DFA reported 167 victims in 2010, 159 in 2011, 40 in 2012 and 0 in 2013.

Amid limited financial resources, the DFA was able to provide aid to 20,875 distressed Filipino workers in 2013, including 3,044 victims of human trafficking and hundreds caught in conflict in strife-torn nations.

The Philippines is the one of the world’s largest exporter of labor in the world with about 10 million workers employed mostly as domestic helpers, construction laborers and medical personnel.

Their struggling Southeast Asian nation calls them “modern-day heroes” for the often-meager earnings they send home that, collectively, keep the Philippine economy afloat and local business booming.

From January to November 2013, Filipinos abroad sent home $20.6 billion, which is 5 percent higher than the previous year for the same period.

But President Benigno S. Aquino III has recognized the vulnerability of overly depending on remittances.

He said his reform agenda was aimed at transforming a Southeast Asian economic laggard, which has been regarded in the past by many investors as too risky to gamble on, into one of Asia’s most promising new investment destinations.

With more jobs from new investments and gradual improvements in the economy, Filipinos may no longer regard foreign employment as the only alternative for survival, but just one of several options, Aquino said.

The government, Aquino said, would “create jobs at home so that working abroad will be out of choice, not necessity.” — KBK, GMA News

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