TO arrest the swelling number of distressed overseas Filipino workers (OFW) who want to return home, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario has requested for an audience with the Saudi foreign minister to discuss ways to hasten their repatriation.
“We are trying to see if the Saudi authorities can improve the speed at which our people are getting their papers, the exit visas as well as regularizing their work permits,” he said at the sidelines of the celebration for the founding anniversary of the 46th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) at the National Museum.
Del Rosario said the department has deployed more people to Saudi Arabia to boost the operations of the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh and the consulate in Jeddah, where thousands of Filipinos are camped outside since the crackdown on illegal workers was announced in mid-April.
The oil-rich kingdom has agreed to extend the deadline earlier set for illegally working foreigners in the country to regularize their statuses or go back to their home countries.
The new deadline is November 3, which gives the Philippine missions in Riyadh and Jeddah at least three months to repatriate thousands of distressed OFWs.
The Saudization law was passed to prioritize the employment of Saudi nationals and deport foreigners without proper documentation.
With the three-month extension, the Foreign Affairs chief hoped the Philippines “can be ready in terms of reaching all our objectives by that time.”
He wrote a letter to Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal, asking for a meeting to discuss ways on how to improve the process of repatriation.
“I asked for a meeting with the foreign minister in the next one or two weeks. I indicated to him that I am prepared to go back anytime that he can see me because I really want to meet him to see if we can get more support,” del Rosario said.
Although there were many Filipinos who were able to get other jobs and regularize their statuses in the country, the secretary said there is still a big group of Filipinos who want to be repatriated.
“All groups need processing assistance,” del Rosario added.