PH crosses fingers on Saudi deadline
MANILA, Philippines – Facing penalties if they stay longer in Saudi Arabia, 25 Filipinos will return to the Philippines on Tuesday, July 2, as the Philippine government hopes Riyadh will extend its deadline for undocumented workers like them.
Saudi Arabia set Wednesday, July 3, as the deadline for undocumented workers to legalize their status. Violators face up to two years in prison and fines of at least 100,000 riyal or $27,000.
In a press conference, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesman Raul Hernandez said the 25 repatriates on Tuesday will come from Riyadh. Once they arrive, the number of Filipino workers sent home from Saudi will reach 800.
Hernandez noted that, over the weekend, 54 undocumented Filipino workers also arrived from Saudi.
To allow it to repatriate more Filipinos, the Philippine government has requested Saudi to extend its July 3 deadline. Hernandez said the government has heard talks of a possible extension, but has not received official word about it.
“We are hoping that the Saudi government would seriously look into this request and allow an extension, so that we can repatriate all those who would like to be repatriated and also facilitate the legalization of the papers of those who want to continue working in Saudi Arabia,” Hernandez told reporters.
He added the government continues “to provide all appropriate assistance” to undocumented Filipinos in Saudi.
He said as of Thursday last week, June 27, up to 304 Filipinos remained at the camp near the Philippine consulate in Jeddah, while 226 women and children had sought shelter in the consulate.
'Occupy' PH posts
Stranded Filipino workers in Saudi, however, criticized the Philippine government for supposedly failing to repatriate them.
In a statement, migrant workers' group Migrante said 1,400 stranded overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) will protest this problem on Monday, July 1. Migrante said stranded OFWs at the Jeddah Tent City will “occupy” the Philippine consulate in Riyadh – a form of protest that entails camping out.
The group said based on OFWs' reports, Philippine posts in Riyadh and Jeddah “have padlocked their offices to prevent the OFWs from 'occupying.'”
“We condemn in strongest terms this recent move by the Philippine government. They failed in their duty to immediately and massively repatriate our OFWs. Now they are depriving [them] protection, shelter, and sanctuary,” said Migrante International chairperson Garry Martinez.
Official statistics show 8 million expatriates work in Saudi Arabia. The crackdown on undocumented workers is expected to reduce this number by “at least 30%,” economic analyst Fadhl al-Bouainain said. – Rappler.com