Migrante is calling on President Benigno Aquino III and Vice President Jejomar Binay to “take a break from campaign sorties even just for a day to discuss withthe heads of concerned government agencies how to come up with a repatriation plan for all undocumented and stranded OFWs in Saudi Arabia.”
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – Migrante Partylist criticized the intensified crackdowns on migrant workers in Saudi Arabia, which has resulted in gross human rights violations, and called on the Aquino government to assist the affected overseas Filipino workers.
“We have received reports that the Saudi government has been presently conducting intensified crackdowns on undocumented migrant workers as part of the implementation of the Nitaqat or Saudization program. The crackdowns are in compliance with an amended Saudi labor law, particularly Article 39, giving power to the Saudi Labor Ministry to ‘inspect and investigate’ undocumented and overstaying migrant workers,” Connie Bragas-Regalado, Migrante Partylist chairwoman and first nominee, said.
For the past decades, Saudi Arabia has become one of the prime destinations for Filipinos who want to work abroad. But in July 2011, the Labor Ministry in Saudi announced the implementation of Nitaqat Scheme, also referred to as the Saudization policy, which would prioritize the hiring of Saudi citizens over migrant workers in jobs available there.
When the scheme was first announced, the Philippine government, through the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, claimed that the policy would have no impact on overseas Filipino workers.
But Migrante Partylist said that since it was first implemented in late 2011, “migrant workers have been expelled from the country through non-renewal or termination of contracts.”
Regalado said the policy has “so far resulted in abuses, human rights violations and criminalization of undocumented migrant workers.”
“We are greatly disturbed by complaints and accounts of illegal arrests, damage to properties and other abuses done by Saudi authorities,” she added.
John Leonard Monterona, Migrante Middle East regional coordinator, said that, “per our monitoring, there were considerable numbers of undocumented migrants including OFWs. About 40 of them, mostly women, were nabbed during the series of raids” that were being conducted in the whole of Saudi since last week.
The migrant rights group said there are about 7,000 undocumented Filipino workers in Saudi Arabia. Some of them are stranded while some are awaiting repatriation. These OFWs, according to Migrante, lost their jobs after running away from abusive employers.
Monterona said these raids are being done in houses, accommodations and even in their work places.
He added that in the last quarter of 2012, some 7,000 stranded and overstaying Filipinos in Saudi have asked officials of the Philippine consulate in Jeddah to assist them with their repatriation. They were told, however, that the Philippine government has stopped its repatriation program. Following the crackdown on illegal migrants, the numbers have increased to around 12,000, Monterona said.
Migrante Middle East, on the other hand, also called on the Saudi government to “implement a general amnesty for all undocumented and overstaying migrant workers in the kingdom” for humanitarian considerations.
Monterona, for his part, is calling on President Benigno Aquino III and Vice President Jejomar Binay to “take a break from campaign sorties even just for a day to discuss with the heads of concerned government agencies how to come up with a repatriation plan for all undocumented and stranded OFWs in Saudi Arabia.”
“We call on the Philippine government to urgently investigate and assist OFWs victimized by the crackdowns and facilitate their immediate repatriation. Regardless of status, their rights should be respected and their welfare taken cared of,” Bragas-Regalado said.