THE Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) is taking advantage of a 90-day general amnesty given by the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for all undocumented and overstaying migrant workers for humanitarian reasons by repatriating at least 5,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
A DoLE team of senior officials has been created by Labor and Employment Silvestre Bello 3rd to fly to Saudi Arabia to facilitate the repatriation process to bring home the distressed OFWs, who, according to the group Migrante International, number more than 5,000.
It is believed that the general amnesty is a prelude to a possible crackdown on overstaying and undocumented foreigners in line with the Kingdom’s so-called “Saudization” program and in compliance with an amended Saudi Labor Law.
Bello has designated Undersecretary Dominador Say, concurrent officer-in-charge of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), to lead the repatriation mission.
The 90-day amnesty will cover undocumented and overstaying foreign individuals of Umrah, Hajj and visit visa holders; OFWs with expired iqamas (residence permits), or have never been issued an iqama; huroob cases or those who escaped from their employers; and OFWs who were abandoned by their employers, including their dependents.
The amnesty applications of OFWs with the these cases will be processed free of penalties, and will be given exit permits and issued with exemption in acquiring certificate of no objection from their employers.
They will also be exempted from the usual “deportee fingerprint system” and will be able to return to the kingdom legally.
Undocumented OFWs who have police cases, traffic violations and bank obligations, however, are not entitled to amnesty.
Aside from processing their travel documents and clearances, the government will be paying for the plane tickets of the stranded OFWs going back to the Philippines.
The Labor department, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration and the Bureau of Local Employment are ready to assist the repatriated OFWs when they arrive in the Philippines.
They will be given livelihood assistance for them to continue earning income while still looking for a regular job in the country. WILLIAM B. DEPASUPIL