Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos, Jr. has called on the government to work overtime and process within 2 months the correction of the status of remaining overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia who are either undocumented or with incomplete working requirements.
Marcos made the call after the Saudi government gave illegal migrant workers until March 1, 2014 to complete their working papers in order to make their stay in the Kingdom legal.
“I hope, this time, the Department of Labor and the Department of Foreign Affairs will be able to assist all of our OFWs who still have incomplete documents. I believe that two months grace period is enough if only our officials would buckle down to work to legalize our workers’ stay in Saudi Arabia or have them immediately repatriated if necessary,” he said in a statement.
Reports said the Department of Foreign Affairs estimated that about 1,600 Filipino workers in Saudi Arabia are either awaiting repatriation or correction of their status.
An estimated 450 to 500 OFWs are currently in Central Region Area seeking repatriation, according to a report quoting the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Riyadh.
On the other hand, a total of 992 OFW's (excluding 52 children) are staying in various temporary shelters either supervised by the POLO or the consulate, or in camps near the Philippine Consulate.
“I am calling on the Department of Foreign Affairs or the DOLE to know exactly the OFWs there that have problematic papers. Ilan ba talaga sila? Kailangan may tamang bilang. Who wants to stay and who wants to be repatriated? From the total number, then, we should proceed with the actual correction of papers of OFWs who want to stay, and repatriation process for those who want to return to the Philippines,” Marcos said.
Saudi Interior Minister Prince Muhammad bin Naif ordered the 2-month grace period, or up to March 1, 2014, to give a fresh chance to illegal foreign workers to process their residency and work status.
The Saudi government had launched on March 28 last year a crackdown on illegal migrant workers under “Saudization,” a policy aimed at giving employment opportunities to its own nationals.
King Abdullah ordered the first 3-month reprieve on April 6 last year for illegal workers. It was extended from July 3 to November 3, or the end of the Islamic year, by the Saudi Ministry of Labor.
Reports citing DoLE’s record said that in 2013, 196,633 oFws in the Kingdom were able to correct their papers while 38,939 had voluntarily returned to the Philippines.
“We should comply with all the requirements for the remaining Filipino workers within the given period because this might be the last chance for them. The government can only blame itself if after the deadline there are still Filipinos who will be arrested and incarcerated because of incomplete documents,” Marcos said.