MANILA - Overstaying Filipino workers in Saudi Arabia will be arrested and deported even during the three-month grace period given by the Saudi government for undocumented foreign workers to legalize their status.
Saudi Ambassador Abdullah Al-Hassan told reporters yesterday that the kingdom will have to implement its immigration laws regarding overstaying foreigners in the same way that overstaying Saudi nationals here were deported.
“It is not our focus to penalize people who are supposed to be penalized. We just need to implement our own laws. And those who are not staying illegally, of course, they will enjoy the protection given to expatriates,” Al-Hassan said through an interpreter.
The ambassador said concerned authorities are also expected to ensure the deportation of illegal workers during the 90-day grace period, which started last April 6.
“This new policy is implemented not only for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) but for all overseas workers residing in the kingdom illegally. Within the grace period, they should leave,” Al-Hassan said.
Meanwhile, Al-Hassan said the government of Saudi Arabia would not extend any assistance to the undocumented Filipino workers camping outside the Philippine consulate in Jeddah.
“It is their own embassies that will provide them assistance for them to be deported,” said Al-Hassan. The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the number of OFWs who have camped out in Jeddah has swelled to 700 as of last Tuesday.
The DFA said these OFWs either ran away from their Saudi employers or their work permits and visas have expired.
More legal, labor teams
Team PNoy senatorial candidate and Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara said the government should field more legal and labor teams across Saudi Arabia to facilitate the documentation of overstaying OFWs. “The problems vary from documentation and lack of passport to the existence of a sub-group classified as ‘runaways’.” – With Aurea Calica, Jess Diaz, Paolo Romero, Jose Rodel Clapano