Migrante Vice-chairperson and Middle East regional coordinator John Leonard Monterona
Migrante Vice-chairperson and Middle East regional coordinator John Leonard Monterona

MANILA, Philippines-The 90-day grace period granted by the Saudi government to all ‘illegal’ workers to rectify their status will end on July 3that is seen to surge the numbers of stranded Filipino workers seeking repatriation, according to a Filipino migrants rights group.

“As the 90-day grace period is nearing to end on July 3, we are expecting a surge in the number of stranded Filipino workers seeking assistance from the PH embassy and consulate. Per PH embassy records, there were already 7,500 stranded Filipino workers who have sought assistance for their repatriation. It will balloon to around 12,000 before on July 3,” said MIGRANTE vice chairperson John Leonard Monterona, also regional coordinator of
Migrante International in the Middle East.

Monterona, however, noted that per their conservative estimate there are about 22,000 undocumented OFWs in the entire Kingdom; mostly run away from their sponsor-employer due to alleged various labor rights violations, abuses and maltreatment.

Monterona said the Saudi govt. seems dead serious to continue the crackdown of illegal workers after July 3.

Those who will be nabbed will risk being slapped with prison sentences and fines.

On May 10, 2013, Saudi Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Labor posted an implementing guidelines for Expatriates to rectify status on the website of the Saudi Press Agency approved by the King for expatriates to rectify their status in the Kingdom by July 3.

‘We came to know that the guidelines address to issues related to return to the current sponsor, transfer of sponsor, and repatriation,” Monterona added.

Monterona also noted that per the Guidelines, the provisions for the issuance of a waiver on the payment of penalties and fines were granted and the ‘No Objection Certificate’ (NOC) or the consent of the current employer is no longer required.

“We welcome the issuance of the Guidelines to rectify the status of undocumented migrants including our fellow Filipino workers as it will smoothen the process. But the extension to the 90-day grace must be pursued by the PH govt. with the host Saudi govt.,” Monterona averred.

Monterona noted that the extension to the 90-day grace period was among the commitment given by Department of Foreign Affairs secretary Albert Del Rosario during April 30 dialog with MIGRANTE officials and some of the kin of the stranded OFWs in Saudi Arabia.

“We will closely follow this matter to SFA Del Rosario. We will also seek from the Saudi govt. the granting of general amnesty to all undocumented migrants including Filipino workers so that they will be repatriated soon,” Monterona lamented.

Monterona also reminded the PNoy govt. through the DFA the continuous supply of food, water, sanitation and other needs of the stranded OFWs in ‘Tent City’, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

He said those 66 stranded OFWs now inside the PH embassy in Riyadh on their 7th day have been ‘terrorized’ by PH embassy staff as per the order of Amb. Ezzadin Tago such as the food and water donated by various Filipino organizations were not allowed and were confiscated, the electricity and water lines were cut, forcing some of the stranded OFWs to leave the embassy premises.

“We condemn such act by PH embassy officials and will hold Amb. Tago accountable. We demand from the PNoy govt. Ambassador Tago’s immediate recall,” Monterona said. (PR)