DFA helps undocumented Filipinos in Saudi as deadline nears
MANILA, Philippines—The Department of Foreign Affairs said Saturday it would continue to assist undocumented Filipinos in either legalizing their stay in Saudi Arabia or coming home even past the November 3 deadline given by Saudi authorities for undocumented foreign nationals to correct their status there.
Thousands of undocumented Filipino workers face arrest, deportation and fines when the Saudi government starts enforcing its immigration laws, as it has said it would, when the deadline lapses on Sunday in line with its “Saudization” policy.
“Our embassy in Riyadh and Consulate General in Jeddah will continue assisting our OFWs who want to be repatriated or regularized even beyond the grace period,” said DFA spokesman Raul Hernandez.
Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz initially gave undocumented foreign workers until July 3 to correct their status as the Saudi government implemented its Saudization policy, which gives employment priority to its nationals.
Heeding appeals from foreign governments whose citizens are affected by the immigration crackdown, the king later granted a four-month grace period until Sunday.
Hernandez said a total of 4,371 Filipinos had been repatriated from Jeddah and Riyadh as of October 30 while some 1,500 were still awaiting immigration clearances to fly home.
There are still an undetermined number of undocumented Filipinos who are likely to miss the Sunday deadline. The Commission on Overseas Filipinos’ latest stock estimate says there were some 108,000 “irregular” or undocumented Filipinos in Saudi Arabia as of December 2012.
As of Saturday afternoon, Vice President Jejomar Binay was still awaiting the Saudi king’s response to his October 29 letter seeking yet another extension to the deadline.
Saudi Ambassador to the Philippines Abdullah Al-Hassan earlier told the Inquirer that the Saudi government would strictly enforce its immigration laws upon the lapse of the grace period.
“After the expiry of the grace period deadline, the penalty or punishments prescribed in the law shall be applied strictly on any violator among foreigners and their employers,” said the envoy.
“There will be absolutely no negligence in the implementation of the rule of law against all violators and those who hide them. The penalty includes deportation and barring from reentry to the kingdom aside from fines and detention or imprisonment to be imposed on violators among individuals, employers and institutions’ proprietors,” he added.
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