Saudi bans migrants from forming organizations

MIGRANTE Partylist today raised serious concern over a latest circular released by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to all Embassies and International Organizations prohibiting the establishment of organizations by migrants and expatriate nationals. The circular was dated October 17, 2012 and was released by the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh on December 10.

Saudi Ministry of Labor has then requested all diplomatic missions to comply and prevent the creation and/or registration of community organizations, and has requested all missions to immediately cancel the formation of organizations and their activities without permit from the Saudi MFA.

In response to the circular, the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh has suspended the accreditation and/or recognition of Filipino community organizations until further notice from the Saudi Ministry of Affairs.

“This is a cause for grave concern and an affront to the right of migrants to organize. The Philippine government should not condone this new policy and should raise a protest,” said Connie Bragas-Regalado, chairperson of Migrante Partylist.

Bragas-Regalado said that the new Saudi policy is a direct violation of migrants’ human rights and the United Nations International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of all Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, which will be commemorated on December 18, International Migrants’ Day. The UN Convention recognizes and upholds the right of migrant workers to organize, regardless of status.

She said that the new policy would further restrict and limit activities and rights of Filipino communities in Saudi “where it is generally repressive, especially for migrant workers”. “Paano na ang mga kababayan natin doon na walang ibang takbuhan kundi ang mga organisasyon at Filipino communities? Their strength and protection is in their unity and organization. The Saudi government has no right to strip them of that right.”

Bragas-Regalado said that the new policy might be in light of the recent stop-work protests and actions of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and migrants of other nationalities against abusive companies and employers. Recently, some 300 OFWs and migrants of other nationalities held hunger strikes and protests against at least six companies in Saudi for labor rights abuses and violations.

“We fear that in light of this, OFWs and OFW organizations may be singled out because our Saudi 200+ were the most vocal and they led the protests.”

“We call on the Philippine government to challenge, without delay, this new policy. The Aquino administration should make a stand on this repressive policy, especially as we are set to commemorate International Migrants’ Day. We also call on all OFWs and migrants in Saudi to be more vigilant and continue to fight for their right to organize,” Bragas-Regalado said.

Bragas-Regalado also called on other migrant organizations around the world to denounce the new Saudi policy.

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