MANILA, Philippines-Authorities in Saudi Arabia today rejected requests by embassies as well as public and private sectors to consider providing extension to the 90-day grace period to all ‘illegal’ workers to legalize their status until July 3, 2013, according to a Filipino migrants’ rights group in the Middle East.
Citing news reports, MIGRANTE Middle East and North Africa (MIGRANTE-MENA) coordinator John Leonard Monterona said the Saudi labor ministry is not favorable in giving extension to the 90-day grace period deadline.
On mid-April this year, Saudi authorities headed by the Labor ministry staged an intense crackdown of undocumented and overstaying expatriate workers by rounding them up at their job site and even in known accommodations of undocumented migrant workers.
Hundreds of ‘illegals’ were apprehended. But due to public and private sectors demand to put a halt on the crackdown, the Saudi King His Highness King Abdulla ordered a halt to the crackdown and instead gave a 90-day grace period to let all ‘illegal’ migrants to legalize their status and for others to leave the Kingdom without any penalty.
“Saudi labor ministry is really serious to clean up the Kingdom from overstaying and ‘illegal’ migrants in line with its Saudization policy via Nitaqat or the localization of labor giving employment priority to its own nationals over expatriate workers,” Monterona added.
Monterona cited Saudi Labor ministry spokesman, Hatab Al-Anazi, quoted by a national daily in Saudi Arabia saying that the grace period was based on a royal decree and that only another royal decree can extend it.
On May 31, Monterona said he had communicated with an official of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) in Manila, who requested anonymity because it does not fall within his responsibility to speak the matter, confirming that the DFA had already‘made a request to the Saudi envoy to the Philippines Ambassador Hassan to extend the said grace period to enable all ‘illegal’ Filipinos in the Kingdom to legalize their continued stay and work.’
In reply, the Saudi envoy assured the DFA official that he would convey the request for an extension to the 90-day grace period to the Saudi government.
“We supposed that by now, the PH embassy in Riyadh had already sent its request or made representations to appropriate Saudi authorities asking for an extension to the 90-day grace period,” Monterona added.
Monterona, however, said, “As the grace period comes nearer, it creates a chilling effect to ‘illegal’ migrant workers for fear of being penalized once they could not fix their status or leave the Kingdom by July 3, thus some have resorted to forging their documents, and this has caused chaos at various passport department (locally called as Jawasat) offices.”
“We join the calls by the PH government and other migrant-sending governments to the Saudi government and direct our appeal to Saudi King His Highness King Abdulla to consider providing an extension to the 90-day grace period that will end on July 3 for humanitarian considerations,” Monterona added.
Monterona said there are a huge number of ‘illegal’ migrant workers in Saudi Arabia of at least 1.2 million, mostly from India, Pakistan, Egypt, the Philippines, Bangladesh, and from other Asian countries.
“With such huge number of ‘illegal’ migrants, all wanting to legalize their status or leave the Kingdom without any penalty, and considering the tedious process they go through, the 90-day grace period is not enough. Giving an extension is justified and reasonable,” Monterona concluded.