MANILA, Philippines-The Filipino migrants’ rights group, Migrante-Middle East (M-ME), today said it received reports from some of the stranded overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Saudi Arabia that their exit visas have expired while awaiting the Philippine government-sponsored air tickets.

John Leonard Monterona, MIGRANTE vice chairperson and regional coordinator of M-ME, confirmed that he has been receiving complaints from some stranded OFWs in Jeddah and Riyadh about their air tickets, which until now they have not received from the PH embassy and consulate.

“We have thought that the stranded OFWs’ air tickets from the DFA were already sent to PH embassy and consulate in Saudi Arabia. We were surprised that the stranded OFWs who already obtained exit visas are still awaiting their air tickets,” Monterona added.

Monterona, citing information from the stranded OFWs at the ‘Tent City’ in Jeddah and those in Riyadh,said the Saudi immigration authorities issued exit visas with only 7-day validity to some 600 stranded OFWs, so far.

“Noting that the exit visas issued by Saudi immigration authorities to the stranded OFWs are only valid for 7 days, then it is prudent on the part of PH embassy and consulate officials to issue open-and-ready air tickets so that their repatriation will not be further delayed,” Monterona adding that they monitored 8 stranded OFWs exit visas got expired the other day.

“We would like to remind the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) of what it promised to us during our April 30 meeting along with some of the families of the stranded OFWs that air ticket will be shouldered by the government. Sec. del Rosario himself assured us that the fund for repatriation is not an issue,” recalled Monterona.

Citing records of the PH embassy in Riyadh, Monterona said there were around 6,500 and 3,500 stranded OFWs in Jeddah and Riyadh, respectively, who have sought assistance for repatriation early this year.

Around 4,200 stranded OFWs camped out beside the PH consulate building in Jeddah since April 10, while more than 200 trooped inside the PH embassy in Riyadh on May 4.

On-mid April 2013, the Saudi govt. launched massive crackdown on ‘illegal’ migrant workers in its attempt to force private companies to correct their status as per Saudization’s Nitaqat policy that employed ‘illegal’ migrant workers.

Upon the Saudi King’s instruction, the Saudi labor ministry granted a 90-day grace period that will endJuly 3 to correct ‘illegal’ workers status, for transfer to another employer and repatriate those who wanted to leave the Kingdom.

M-ME estimates there are 22,000 to 28,000 undocumented OFWs in the Kingdom out of the total 1.2-M OFWs living and working in Saudi Arabia.