7,000 Saudi OFWs enlist for voluntary repatriation

AT LEAST seven thousands (7,000) overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), undocumented or illegally overstaying in Saudi Arabia, have enlisted for voluntary repatriation, according to the Filipino migrants right group Migrante Middle East (M-ME).
M-ME regional coordinator John Leonard Monterona said they got the figure from the Jeddah-based offices of the Philippine Overseas Labor (POLO) and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), which revealed that at least 7,000 undocumented OFWs have enlisted for voluntary repatriation since the last quarter of 2011.

“Migrante officers in Jeddah, during a case dialog with POLO-OWWA officials at the PHL consulate in Jeddah, came to know that there are now at least 7,000 undocumented OFWs desperately awaiting repatriation,” Monterona said.

Monterona noted that this figure only came from the POLO-OWWA offices in Jeddah and does not include the lists from other POLO-OWWA offices in Riyadh and Al-Khobar, in the central and eastern part of Saudi Arabia, respectively.

“A combined estimate of at least 12,000 to 14,000 OFWs are now undocumented in Saudi Arabia compared to our previous year’s estimate of 8,000 to 10,000 undocumented OFWs,” Monterona noted.

M-ME case records revealed that OFWs were forced to run away from their employer due to abuses, maltreatment, and labor malpractices including but not limited to non-payment of salaries and overtime work, down-grading of salary, contract substitution, working without work permit and no health insurance, allegedly committed by employers.

As to years of being undocumented, Monterona revealed that most of the undocumented have been staying for at least a year, some for 3 to 6 years.

“Sixty to 70 percent of the undocumented are facing absconding case filed by their sponsor-employer,” Monterona added.

Monterona said with the help of friends and fellow OFWs, an undocumented OFW could still work, though illegally on a part-time basis as working from other employer aside from their original sponsor constitute a breach of the host govt. immigration rules covering migrant workers.

“Undocumented OFWs, who are not lucky enough to find on-and-off part-time job, are forced to beg. Others resorted to ‘selling’ blood in exchange of an ‘honorarium’ provided by Saudi hospitals,” Monterona added.

Monterona said: “The continuing surge of undocumented OFWs, not only in Saudi Arabia but also in other mid-east countries, must serve a warning and a basis for the PHL government to craft a mass repatriation policy with a detailed repatriation program.”

The OFW leader noted that previous administrations, from Pres. Ferdinand E. Marcos to Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, all failed to work for the documentation and legalization of undocumented and overstaying OFWs especially those in the Middle East and Europe.

“For PNoy and his presidential adviser on OFWs concerns Vice-president Binay, the best thing to do is to work for the legalization or documentation of undocumented OFWs, which requires the full cooperation and agreement of the host government. This could be done via consistent diplomatic course of action,” Monterona said.

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