MANILA – The Saudi Diplomatic Police rounded up 18 Filipino men who were part of a group who congregated in front of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office and demanded for their immediate repatriation.
"The labor attache in Riyadh confirmed to our embassy that the Diplomatic Police of Saudi Arabia apprehended 18 Filipino males last July 2nd," said Foreign Affairs Spokesperson, Assistant Secretary Raul Hernandez.
Of the 18, 15 were released. Three were detained and questioned and were released only the following day upon the request of POLO officials. They were taken back to the shelter.
"In most of these cases, those who are questioned and detained are considered the leaders of the group," said Hernandez.
Hernandez explained that the 18 were part of a bigger group composed of 25 men, 7 women and three children who staged a sit-in and attempted to enter the premises of the POLO in Riyadh.
"During the time they were protesting it was still under the grace period," he said.
The grace period was supposed to end on July 3, but was extended to four more months or until November 3, 2013 to give more time to undocumented foreign workers who want to correct their status or process their travel documents for their repatriation.
Hernandez said the individuals, whose papers are being processed, first went to the POLO in Riyadh on June 30 and demanded for their immediate repatriation.
"They were brought to the resthouse being rented by the embassy, but they returned to the POLO on July 2nd at around 8 a.m. and started to congregate in front of its gate," he said.
POLO officials tried to pursuade them to go back to the resthouse, but to no avail. The large group blocking POLO's gate caught the attention of the Saudi Diplomatic Police.
A police officer approached the group with a POLO translator around 8 p.m. to ask them to disperse but they refused.
"At 11 in the evening, a ranking police officer gave the group five minutes to disperse. POLO officials again tried but failed to convince them to go back to the temporary shelter," he said.
Police then brought 15 of the men outside of the diplomatic quarter and were then taken by POLO officials to the shelter while the women and children were brought to the Bahay Kalinga.
RESPECT KSA LAWS
Due to the incident, the DFA reiterated its call to all Filipinos in Saudi Arabia to respect the kingdom's laws.
"We likewise urge individuals and groups in Saudi Arabia not to agitate our kababayans but instead encourage them to cooperate with embassy, consulate, POLO and Saudi government. Mass actions are prohibited under Saudi law. Participation in such activities will only jeopardize the processing of their repatriation," Hernande z said.
The DFA appealed to Filipinos to use the extended grace period to process their papers for legalization or repatriation.
"All they need to do is to submit their personal details to the embassy or to the consulate and they will be provided with all the appropriate assistance," he said.
He added: "We advice them to return to their previous accomodations or to move into the temporary shelters for their own safety. Please do not put yourselves and your children at risk by camping out and exposing yourselves to the elements."