Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator John Leonard Monterona
Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator John Leonard Monterona

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia-Saudi authorities continue to round up illegal and overstaying migrant workers in its bid to force private firms to heed on the full implementation of Saudization locally known as Nitaqat, which means localization of labor, and clean the Kingdom from overtaying and illegal migrant workers, according to a Filipino migrants’ rights group in the Middle East.

“We have been receiving confirmed reports since last week about the crackdown on illegals and overstaying led by composite teams of police and Saudi labor officials in Saudi’s main cities Riyadh, Jeddah, Al Khobar and Dammam. Since then we have received numerous calls from Filipino undocumented workers and other nationalities asking for guidance and assistance,” said Migrante-Middle East (M-ME) regional coordinator John Leonard Monterona, also the Vice-chairperson of MIGRANTE Sectoral Party of OFWs and families.

Last week, it was reported in several local newspapers in Saudi Arabia that the Labor ministry have amended Saudi labor law specifically Article 39 giving power to the Labor Ministry to inspect and investigate violations related to expatriates employment in the Kingdom.

The Interior Ministry will arrest and deport those surplus workers who do not work for any company. It will also punish Saudi individuals and companies who employ such workers, according to the new article 39 of Saudi’s labor law.

While calling for the Saudi authorities to respect the rights of undocumented migrant workers, Monterona, however, clarified that their group understands the move by the Saudi govt. to rid the Kingdom of about a million undocumented and overstaying migrant workers saying ‘it is within the Saudi govt. local labor priorities, immigration and internal peace and order concerns’.

“Many of our fellow expatriate workers were forced to run away from their sponsors due to alleged numerous labor violations such as nonpayment of salaries and overtime pay, working more than 8 hours, and contract substitution and illegal deductions by their recruitment agencies,” Monterona explained.

Expatriate workers in the Kingdom believed to have reached more than 8-M.

Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshi, Egyptians and Filipinos, got the most numbers of expatriate workers.

“We are urging the Saudi authorities to implement first a general amnesty as it announced weeks ago covering all undocumented and overstaying migrants. The amnesty will include provisions of free and swift mass repatriation of undocumented and overstaying migrant workers in the Kingdom. Foreign diplomatic posts are awaiting the guidelines of this general amnesty” Monterona added.

“We also appeal to the Saudi govt. to respect our fellow migrants, though undocumented and overstaying, basic human rights as enshrined in UN Conventions on the Protection of Migrants and members of their Families. We call on them to implement free and swift mass repatriation on undocumented migrants in the Kingdom,” Monterona added.

Last week, Monterona said his group had called on PH embassy and consulate officials during a press conference on 31st of March to provide assistance to all undocumented and overstaying Filipino workers especially women OFWs who have children. (PR)

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