PH braces for Saudi sanctions vs illegal workers

Paterno R. Esmaquel II
Philippine officials fly to Saudi to assist almost 5,000 illegal Filipino workers who face imprisonment

DEADLINE NEAR. Foreign illegal laborers wait in a queue at the Saudi immigration offices at al-Isha quarter in al-Khazan district west of Riyadh on June 30, 2013. Photo by AFP/Fayez Nureldine

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines vowed to help illegal Filipino workers who face imprisonment in Saudi Arabia, among other sanctions, after the Middle Eastern country’s deadline to legalize their status on November 3.

In a last-ditch attempt to assist these illegal workers, Philippine government officials were set to fly to Saudi on Tuesday, October 29, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said.

“We will try our best to help them in being able to pay the fines and penalties of our Filipinos who would like to be repatriated after the grace period,” DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez said in a press briefing.

“That is exactly our mandate – to help everyone who would like to be repatriated or regularized,” he added.

The spokesman said 4,302 undocumented Filipinos have been flown back to the Philippines from Saudi as of Monday, October 28.

That’s only 47.8% of the 9,000 Filipino workers who initially said they wanted repatriation.

He said over 1,500 workers await immigration clearances.

Hernandez said the government team flying to Saudi is led by DFA Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs Jesus Yabes and Department of Social Welfare and Development Undersecretary Parisya Taradji.

He said the officials will meet with Saudi social welfare and immigration officials “to explore possible solutions to this issue and to check on the condition of undocumented Filipinos both in Riyadh and Jeddah.”

“We are trying to check with the other embassies on what sort of action they would undertake after the grace period,” the spokesman said.

Saudi extended the deadline to November 3 from the original July 3. Violators face up to two years in prison and fines of at least 100,000 riyal or $27,000. – Rappler.com 

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Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email pat.esmaquel@rappler.com