House body to look into maltreatment of Filipino workers in Saudi
MANILA, Philippines – The committee on overseas workers’ affairs at the House of Representatives will investigate alleged abuses committed against Filipinos in Saudi Arabia’s crackdown on undocumented workers, the committee’s head said on Wednesday as he called on the Philippine government to do more to protect Filipinos in that country.
Representative Walden Bello of the Akbayan party list said the Philippine government should have anticipated the effects of Saudi Arabia’s crackdown on undocumented workers.
The amnesty period for undocumented foreign workers to regularize their employment status in Saudi Arabia lapsed last Sunday. The crackdown on foreign undocumented workers is linked to the Saudi policy of giving priority to Saudi nationals in the hiring of workers.
Filipino workers deported from Saudi Arabia in recent days alleged that they were abused after being arrested. One said they were treated like animals, and another said their feet were chained.
“The government, especially our representatives in Saudi Arabia, should have prepared the necessary resources to handle this situation. They knew the clock was ticking before the Saudi government would crack down on Filipinos,” Bello said in a statement.
He said the Department of Foreign Affairs should help all OFWs, whether documented or not, and help those who were arrested. It should also assist those trying to evade capture by expediting their repatriation, he added.
Philippine officials must also seek an apology from Saudi officials for the reported abuses, he said.
“Nothing short of a diplomatic action from our government must be taken to seek an apology from the Saudi government for such barbaric and dehumanizing actions and prevent its recurrence,” he said.
He also condemned the reported maltreatment of Filipinos in the hands of Saudi officials. He said the latter’s actions displayed a lack of concern for foreign workers who had contributed to Saudi Arabia’s development.
“Despite being instrumental in running Saudi Arabia’s economy, the hundreds of thousands of foreign workers, especially the OFWs, are treated as an expendable resource by their government,” he said.
“Not even the slightest consideration was given to these workers who have toiled without complaint to build Saudi Arabia what into what it is today,” he added.
Bello deplored the sufferings of the Filipino workers in Saudi Arabia, noting that they had little chance to find relief even in the shelters run by their embassy.
“They have nowhere else to go. They’re placed in between a rock and a hard place. OFWs fleeing harassment, arrest, and imprisonment by Saudi authorities are forced to seek shelter in safe houses which are not only cramped with but where they are susceptible to abuse by our own officials,” he said.
Bello said the committee on overseas workers affairs will tackle relevant proposals related to the Saudi issue on November 27.
“We will make sure that the welfare of OFWs affected by this policy will be top priority of the government,” he added.
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