DFA sets up shelters for Jeddah tent city dwellersBy Tarra Quismundo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario has appealed to more than a thousand undocumented Filipinos camping outside the Philippine Consulate in Jeddah to cooperate by moving out of their tents and transferring to the facilities prepared for them by Philippine officials there.
“We need the cooperation of everyone. Are we getting it? We’re not. We are not getting cooperation of people in the camps,” Del Rosario said in a briefing on Friday afternoon.
“We don’t know what’s in their minds but we’re there. We’re ready to be helpful. We have the facilities. They say they want to stay together but it’s not healthy. If they have another agenda, they should share that with us,” he said.
At least 1,000 Filipinos remain in what has virtually become a tent city outside the Philippine Consulate in Jeddah since undocumented workers set up camps there more than two weeks ago for fear of arrest amid the Saudi government’s crackdown on illegal workers.
Among those living in tents are workers with expired work and residency visas, among other cases in violation of Saudi’s immigration law.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has requested the Saudi government to relax exit visa requirements for the Filipinos to expedite their repatriation. It has also vowed to cover the costs.
In the meantime, the DFA opened shelters where the Filipinos could move from tents, where living conditions are less than ideal, while processing their repatriation.
The shelters have sanitation and sleeping amenities as well as food and water, the official said.
But, to Del Rosario’s lament, less than 20 women and children have agreed to move to these facilities.
The official also sensed “something political” behind the Filipinos’ defiance to leave their tents, saying more people could be found at the camp at daytime.
“The daytime population increases. These people are convinced by those who are already there to come and manifest a show of force, but these guys have their own homes. There must be something political that we don’t know,” said Del Rosario.