7k illegal Filipino workers fail to beat Saudi deadline for voluntary exit
MANILA — Nearly 7,000 undocumented overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Saudi Arabia failed to beat the Saudi government’s deadline to voluntarily leave.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said these overstaying OFWs would not be jailed but would be “individually repatriated” once they have paid their debts.
Since the 90-day amnesty was offered last March 29, a total of 5,122 undocumented OFWs have been repatriated.
The Philippine Embassy in Riyadh reported to the DFA that the registration for the amnesty program has ceased and the Saudi government has not announced any extension of the amnesty program for undocumented migrants.
“We have 5,122 that have gone home and some 12,000 registered Filipinos. This means there is a balance of 6,000 plus Filipinos who are still awaiting” repatriation, said Raul Dado, acting executive director of the DFA office of the undersecretary for migrant workers affairs.
“OFWs who can not be given exit visas because they have commercial and private debts are advised by the Philippine government to fulfill their obligation,” Dado said.
“They will not be jailed but the Philippine government has a standard operation on repatriating Filipinos indivudually based on certain criteria, like settling all debts before they can leave the counry. So it will follow individual instead of mass repatriation,” he went on.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello earlier said most of the undocumented OFWs were victims of maltreatment and illegal recruiters. He said some were forced to flee their employers and had sought refuge in Philippine labor offices in Saudi Arabia. SFM
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