A migrant workers group on Monday called on the officials of Philippine embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to check if Filipinos were among injured in riots between illegal migrants and Saudi authorities.
Citing police reports, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported that riots have ensued last week involving illegal migrants in Manfouha district, a known asylum for many illegal migrants.
Reports indicated that the illegal migrants attacked local Saudis by throwing stones and some with knives on them.
It also reported that a Saudi and an unidentified person were killed while 28 Saudis and 40 expatriates were injured.
Saudi police arrested 561 illegal migrants in its effort to suppress the riot on Saturday.
Migrante-Middle East and North Africa (M-MENA), describing the report as “sketchy and unconfirmed,” urged the Philippine embassy to verify if there were overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) among injured in the riot.
“We call on the PH embassy to verify this sketchy and unconfirmed report on undocumented OFWs allegedly injured in last week illegal migrants riot in Riyadh,” said M-MENA coordinator John Leonard Monterona.
He added that it is only the Philippine embassy, vested with diplomatic privilege and has the resource to mobilize, that could confirm the report.
In a statement issued on Saturday, M-MENA called on the embassy in Riyadh and the consulate in Jeddah to verify reports that over 15 undocumented OFWs (9 in Riyadh and 6 in Jeddah) were arrested by Saudi authorities since it resumed rounding-up of illegal migrants on November 4.
“We hope that by now, the PHL embassy and consulate have already organized quick response team- a team that will visit various jails, police stations, and detention centers -and immediately look after the apprehended OFWs and provide assistance to them,” Monterona averred.
Monterona also urged the government through the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to allocate funds for the payment of fines after the Saudi labor ministry announcement that it will continue to accept applications from undocumented migrants seeking to legalize their status.
The fine will cover for the elapsed period since the amnesty ended on November 3.
Monterona estimated at least 8,000 undocumented OFWs still in Saudi Arabia, ‘basing on the numbers of undocumented OFWs who were recently issued new passport and travel documents.’
Saudi opens new detention processing facility
To accommodate the documentation processing of millions of undocumented migrants in the Western region, the Saudi Makah provincial government opened a new detention processing facility with 120 work stations distributed for operations for all foreign embassies and consulates.
Monterona said the newly opened detention processing facility is located about 60 kilometers away from Jeddah and will take around half an hour to travel.
“It now centralized the operation of documentation such as the biometrics of the deportees,” he added.
He said the new detention facility is air-conditioned with adequate food provision, and undocumented are allowed to take their belongings with them inside the detention processing facility.
Philippine Consul General Norman Uriel Garibay confirmed that the first batch of stranded OFWs under its custody were transferred on Sunday to the new detention processing facility.
The PHL consulate was given a work station, two office rooms, pantry, toilet and bath.
“We hope that the new Saudi detention processing facility operates like a ‘one-stop-shop’ wherein after completion of all the required documentation, the undocumented migrants will be immediately deported back to their countries of origin,” Monterona said.
RITCHIE A. HORARIO