MANILA – A Filipino migrants’ rights body based in Saudi Arabia is urging the Philippine Embassy and the Philippine Consulate General to take the opportunity of the granting of a blanket royal pardon to all illegal and undocumented migrants in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to help undocumented Filipinos.
Migrante Middle East regional coordinator John Leonard Monterona said the pardon could include OFWs whose Iqama (residency permit) has already expired but failed to leave Saudi. He added that most of them are OFWs who have run away from their employers due to abuses, maltreatment and labor malpractices.
On Saudi’s National Day last September 22, the Ministry of Interior announced the granting of the royal pardon for all Umrah, Haj and other visitors who have violated the country’s residency law. The report added that all illegal residents have until March 23, 2011 to return to their respective countries without a corresponding penalty.
“Thus we are urging the concerned Philippine posts to immediately guide and provide assistance to undocumented and illegally staying OFWs to avail of the Royal pardon,” Monterona said. “…without dilly-dallying.”
Once caught, Monterona said, illegal migrants are subjected to harsh penalties such as imprisonment, fines, confiscation of vehicles, and having their names published in local newspapers.
In a separate statement, Mario Ben, Migrante-Saudi Arabia chapter secretary general, said the Philippine posts in Saudi should not wait for the official notification of the amnesty from the host government’s Ministry of Interior before issuing an advisory to OFWs so that they would be guided properly.
Ben said they have been receiving queries on how to avail of the pardon after it was announced. He said that right after the news broke out, the Indian embassy, Pakistani embassy and other concerned foreign diplomatic posts have issued their “respective advisories to their nationals in the Kingdom to avail of the amnesty without delay.”
“On the basis of previously granted Royal pardons, RP posts should know, at least, the initial process and/or procedure for an illegal OFW to avail of the amnesty,” Ben said, “They should advice the concerned OFWs where to proceed for their enlistment for the amnesty.”
There are about 3,000 illegal and undocumented migrants in Saudi Arabia alone. “There are also considerable numbers of illegal and undocumented OFWs in other mid-east countries like UAE, Jordan, Bahrain, Lebanon, Qatar, and Oman,” Monterona said. (JAE / Bulatlat.com)