Saudi grants royal clemency to 7 OFWs

MIGRANTE-Middle East (M-ME), a migrants’ rights group providing assistance to distress and jailed overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), today welcomed the granting of Royal clemency by the Saudi King to seven (7) OFWs incarcerated in different Saudi jails for various offenses.

On Friday, the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Manila issued a statement confirming that the Saudi govt. granted clemency to 7 OFWs adding, ‘the move confirms the importance of strengthening the friendship between the Kingdom and the Philippines’.

Charge d’ Affaires Abdulelah A.A. Aljebreen of Saudi’s Royal Embassy in Manila said, “This clemency distinguishes the Kingdom from the rest of the world as it preserves the family entity and social relationships and makes those it covers feel the tolerance of Islam,” adding that Ramadan is a season of good will, pardon and mercy and it’s coming causes the lifting of the penalty imposed resulting from the offense committed.

Usually, the Saudi govt. grants pardon right after the observance of Ramadan to convicted petty crime offenders including migrant workers.

Reacting to this, M-ME regional coordinator John Leonard Monterona said their group welcomed the granting of clemency to the 7 OFWs by the Saudi govt.

“As we continue to provide assistance to jailed OFWs especially those victims of trumped up charges in Saudi Arabia and in other mid-east countries, we would like to convey our appreciation to the Saudi govt. and His highness King Abdullah in granting clemency to our fellow OFWs. We look forward for their immediate release and repatriation so that the 7 OFWs reunite with their families who are long awaiting them to be home,” Monterona said.

Monterona, however, noted that this time the number of OFWs granted clemency by the Saudi govt. is the smallest number compared to previous clemency granted by the host govt. ‘This is so far the smallest number of OFWs granted clemency by the Saudi govt. Last year there were more than 20 OFWs pardoned and more during previous years.’

“We are hoping that more jailed OFWs who will be pardoned this year considering there are now around 600 to 800 male and female OFWs languishing in different Saudi jails for various offenses,” Monterona averred.

Monterona added per M-ME monitoring as of November 2011, there were 120 OFW inmates in Malaz jail in Riyadh and 40 of them claimed they’ve already served and completed their respective jail term, have completed their clearances and awaiting release and deportation.

‘Presently, in our close estimate there are around 30 to 50 OFWs still languishing in different Saudi jails despite completion of their respective jail terms,’ Monterona claimed.

“We are also receiving reports that there are undisclosed numbers of women OFWs locked up in Al-Nisa jail, also in Riyadh, for various offenses. I have asked the PH embassy regarding this. Embassy officials confirmed the report, they however refused to divulge additional information,” Monterona added.

Monterona calls on the Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs (OUMWA) of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to look into the cases of overstaying OFW inmates especially women OFW inmates in Saudi Arabia and properly instruct the PH post to attend on their release and immediate deportation.

“If Nepal, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Indian mission officials were able to promptly follow the cases of their jailed nationals and sent them home after completion of their jail terms without delay, why the PH govt. could not do the same?” Monterona asked.

Saudi Arabia consistently topped as the No.1 OFWs destinations for the last 15 years with an estimated 1.2-M OFWs working in the entire Kingdom.

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