Sunday, August 23, 2009

Case vs OFWs arrested over ‘mixed gathering’ in KSA dropped - group

The charges against 18 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) arrested for participating in a "mixed gathering" have been dropped by the Saudi police, an advocacy group said Monday.The 18 OFWs, including runaways and officials of the group Migrante-Riyadh, were arrested last August 14 at an apartment at the Badea district in the Saudi Arabian capital city for mixing unrelated men and women in the same room. [See: 18 OFWs held in Riyadh over 'mixed gathering']Under Saudi Arabia’s laws, men and women who are not married or related are not allowed to come together in private or public gatherings. If caught, they are charged with immorality or prostitution.But Eric Jocson, chairperson of Migrante-Riyadh, has told Migrante Middle East that the Saudi police dropped the charges after case officers of the Philippine Embassy convinced them that there was no "prostitution" as those apprehended were members of a legitimate migrant organization providing assistance to OFWs.John Leonard Monterona, Migrante Middle East coordinator, said the gathering was part of their rights and welfare assistance program wherein they give advice and assistance to distressed Filipino workers before endorsing their cases to the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Riyadh.Vice Consul Roussel Reyes confirmed the dropping of the charges and said that it was the intervention of the case officers that allowed it to happen."We commend embassy’s case officers Mr. Frias, Akrahman, and Harris under the direct guidance of Vice Consul Roussel Reyes for their timely intervention that lead to the dropping of the case against our members. We will not hesitate to laud the good job done by embassy’s case officers and officials for that matter so long as they will provide same assistance to all distress and run away OFWs not only to KGS and Migrante members," said Monterona.But the Migrante regional coordinator said that they are still awaiting the release of their fellow migrant advocates Mike Garlan and Rustico Marcos. Other Migrante officials were earlier bailed out by their employers.Reyes reportedly told Monterona that after the police receives the notice from the prosecutor, those with Iqama (working permit) will be released immediately while runaways and those who have expired Iqamas will be deported.Monterona said detained Filipina workers Sarah Gumansing and Elvira De Guzman have already been released and are currently in the custody of their employers while distressed OFWs Clemia Corpuz, Rosa Salazar, Reynaldo Balagtas, and Amauri Meriz will soon be deported.The migrant leader said they estimate that there are about 26,000 undocumented and runaway OFWs in the Middle East, mostly in Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Jordan, and Lebanon.

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