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Overstaying Filipino pilgrims get amnesty

/ 07:54 AM August 30, 2011

Filipinos who overstayed their Umrah visas after performing the pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia have until next month to avail themselves of an amnesty granted by the kingdom, a migrants rights group said on Monday.

Migrante International said the royal amnesty, announced on April 27, for overstaying pilgrims who arrived between Sept. 22, 2010, and March 23, 2011, has been extended to Sept. 14.

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“Filipinos who overstayed after performing the Umrah have barely 15 days to avail themselves of the royal pardon. They will be allowed to leave Saudi Arabia without any monetary penalty and weeks of detention at the deportation center,” said Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator John Leonard Monterona in a statement.

Monterona said overstaying Filipinos could proceed directly to any international airport in the kingdom and they would only be required by Saudi immigration authorities to present their passport along with their expired Umrah visa and airline ticket and they would be allowed to leave.

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“This simple procedure was confirmed to me by a Philippine embassy official when I asked him as there are a number of overstaying Filipinos asking for our assistance,” Monterona said.

He said those who don’t leave and are later caught face a fine of 10,000 Saudi rials (roughly P112,000) plus weeks of detention at the deportation center.

Citing reports from the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF), Monterona said there were 700 Filipino pilgrims who flew to Saudi Arabia to perform the Umrah last year but not all of them returned to the Philippines.

“We came to know that less than a hundred of them did not leave Saudi Arabia as they were tempted to look for jobs in the kingdom,” Monterona said.

The Umrah is a pi lgrimage to Mecca that may be undertaken by a Muslim. It is not compulsory unlike the Hajj which is a major pilgrimage that must be undertaken at least once in a Muslim’s life.

Monterona clarified that other overstaying and undocumented Filipinos— other than those who entered on the Umrah visa which allows foreigners a six-month stay in the kingdom—were not covered by the royal pardon.

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TAGS: Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Mecca, Migrante International, migrants rights group, National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF), Overseas Filipino workers, overstaying Filipinos, royal amnesty, Umrah visas
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