Vice President Jejomar Binay on Saturday urged overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Saudi Arabia, who want to go home but have not yet processed their papers, to contact the Philippine Embassy as the processing for exit visas will resume next week.
In a press statement, the Vice President said Filipino workers must make use of the time given by Saudi labor authorities, despite the Nov. 3 deadline, to fix their status.
“Ang magandang balita ay magre-resume ang pag-process ng mga papel next week. Pero ang kailangan doon ay pumunta kayo sa embassy para mag-apply,” said Binay, who is also the Presidential Adviser on OFW Concerns.
He warned that those who have not yet applied or are not planning to apply to the Philippine Embassy or the Philippine Overseas Labor Office may be arrested by the Saudi authorities.
The Vice President also noted that those who started the process before the Nov. 3 deadline will also be allowed to complete the process and will not be arrested as long as there are no violations.
“Ang hinahabol dito ay yung mga nagkalat at naghahanap pa lang ng trabaho doon,” he said.
On Friday, Binay disclosed that Saudi labor authorities assured Filipino assistance and protection from harassment while the crackdown on illegal workers continues.
The Vice President said it was made possible through the help of Labor Minister Jameel bin Mohammed Ali Humaidan, whom he met with last Wednesday in his office.
Binay raised the concern with the Labor Minister who is also the chairman of the Council of Labor Ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the latter called Saudi Deputy Labor Minister Mufreg Al-Haqbani to appeal not to make arrests nor harm those Filipinos who are found not having travel documents.
Philippine Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Ezzedin Tago also received a message from Saudi Labor Deputy Minister Mufreg Al-Haqbani, who gave assurance that Filipinos will be treated well while processing their exit visas.
The crackdown against illegal workers in the kingdom started on March 28 as part of the “Saudization” policy, which encourages the employment of Saudi nationals in private firms.
The kingdom originally gave illegal foreign workers, including around 20,000 Filipinos, until July 3 to correct their stay. This was later moved to Nov. 3 by the Saudi King, as a response to appeals of Saudi companies and employers on the need for the Saudi government to expedite the processing of documents of affected workers.
According to the Philippine Embassy in Saudi Arabia, around 5,000 illegal Filipino workers are still in the kingdom who are either seeking to correct their stay or applying for repatriation. PNA