• Group agitating distressed OFWs in Saudi Arabia

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    By Bernice Camille V. Bauzon Reporter

    A group of Filipinos in Saudi Arabia is “agitating” distressed workers who are awaiting repatriation to “sow disorderly conduct” amid the Kingdom’s crackdown on illegal workers, an official of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Wednesday.

    He said this as reports of violence continue to be reported from the Kingdom.

    DFA spokesman Raul Hernan dez said that a Filipino worker punched a Philippine consul there when a group of campers in Jeddah forcibly entered the consulate’s office to get documents and passports.

    This happened over the weekend, the Foreign Affairs official said without identifying the group he was referring to.

    “We don’t want that to happen. What we want is there should be orderly processing of their applications, orderly distribution of passports and orderly request for extension of their passports, so that the services will be extended to them in an efficient manner,” Hernandez added.

    Citing Philippine Ambassador to Riyadh Ezzedin Tago, Her nandez also denied the allegations by labor group Migrante that Filipino campers are being treated badly by Philippine officials.

    He said there is no truth to the allegations that the consulate cut off the electric supply of the campers. Tago said the disruption was caused by “overloading” since campers are using appliances and gadgets.

    “All assistance is being given to wards and campers like the distribution of food and other basic necessities,” Hernandez assured.

    Although entrance to the embassy is being controlled “to maintain order,” Hernandez said that “anyone who would like to seek assistance is welcome.”

    Filipinos who have been staying illegally in the oil-rich kingdom or whose working permits have already lapsed camped out of the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh and the Philippine Consulate in Jeddah to seek the assistance of officials in their repatriation.

    They have been camping outside the consulate or staying in shelters provided by the embassy since mid-April.

    This is in line with the kingdom’s decision to crack down on illegally staying foreigners in the country. Under the Saudization law, which will take effect on July 1, employers and businesses operating in the kingdom must prioritize the economic opportunities for Saudi citizens.

    This has put to risk the employment of some one million Filipinos working in the country, especially those who have been staying illegally there.

    To date, there are still some 38 campers outside the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh and 258 outside the consulate in Jeddah. The consulate also has 164 wards in the shelter.

    Philippine officials there have been working to repatriate thousands of Filipino workers who sought the assistance of the embassy for fear that they may be imprisoned for violating Saudi’s new immigration laws.

    The Saudi government also provided several concessions to the Filipinos such as canceling the need for a no objection certificate and the penalties and fees imposed on them for overstaying.

    Such concessions allowed the Filipinos to acquire exit visas and eventually be repatriated back to Manila.

    “What we are saying here is our Filipinos in Saudi Arabia should be patient and cooperate with our consulate and also with our embassy because the consulate and embassy officials are there to help them which we have been doing from the very beginning,” Hernandez said.

    “Be patient with what is going on in terms of repatriation. This can be done in a more efficient and faster way if they were with us and if they allow our officials to be able to do their jobs. Any activities of hostilities or violence will be counterproductive to what we are doing to help our people to go home and legalize their papers there,” he added.

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