Monday, October 15, 2018
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DFA: Vacationing OFWs can still return to Saudi Arabia

MANILA, Philippines—Saudi Arabia has not banned Filipino migrant workers from returning to that Middle East kingdom after a brief vacation in the Philippines, the Department of Foreign Affairs said Tuesday.

Citing a report of the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh, the DFA said “there is no ban on OFWs who wish to return to their jobs in Saudi Arabia.”

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DFA spokesperson Raul Hernandez clarified that the July 2 Saudi Arabia ban on the issuance of work visas for domestic helpers from the Philippines “applies only to new work visas.”

Hernandez said “it does not cover household service workers with valid work visas who are already in Saudi Arabia, or whose ‘iqamas,’ or residence permits, are up for renewal or those going for a vacation.”

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“They can continue working for their present employers,” he also said.

The supposed “exit” stamping on passports of Filipinos leaving Saudi Arabia has raised apprehensions among some workers that they may not be allowed to return to their old jobs. Some have theorized this is meant to force companies in Saudi Arabia to instead hire Saudi citizens.

In an advice to vacationing workers, Philippine Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Ezzedin Tago said that “as a precaution, (they) should be in contact with their employers just in case they will have such problems at the airport in Riyadh, or elsewhere in Saudi Arabia.”

“They should report the matter to the embassy so that it could take the appropriate action,” Tago said.

The Riyadh-based OFW group Migrante-Middle East said it had been receiving complaints from a number of OFWs about the “exit” stamp on their passports when they left Saudi Arabia.

The result is that some OFWs in Saudi Arabia have indicated they will postpone their scheduled yearly vacations for fear of not being allowed reentry, according to a Migrante coordinator.

Some OFWs and their recruiters fear the stamping regulation may have something to do with the kingdom’s new labor policy that reportedly limits the number of migrant workers in private sector firms.

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Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said the other day the stamping of “exit” on passports of vacationing OFWs was “not possible” because Saudi exit/reentry visas issued by Saudi Arabia’s passport department could not be changed by immigration authorities at the airports.

Between 30,000 and 50,000 OFWs in Saudi Arabia go on vacation in the second semester, particularly during the Christmas season.

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