“The Nitaqat or Saudization policy is just the tip of the iceberg. We believe that it is merely being used as justification for the inhumane arrests, deportation and criminalization of migrant workers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”
This was the statement made by Migrante Partylist chairperson and first nominee Connie Bragas-Regalado as the Saudi government continued to implement crackdowns and raids on migrant workers and expats in the country.
The crackdowns, which started on March 28, were sudden and unprecedented. “The problem of undocumented migrant workers in Saudi, mostly runaways and victims of abuse and maltreatment, is not new in Saudi. But these martial-law style raids resulting in human rights violations are extraordinary.”
Bragas-Regalado said their Saudi chapter related that raids were being conducted in schools, hospitals and even private homes where migrants and expats are located. Some are being apprehended on the streets in broad daylight. “It appears that the crackdowns are not merely for deportation of undocumented migrants but are intended to criminalize them or put them to jail.”
Bragas-Regalado said that there is a deeper reason behind the crackdowns.
“The public’s discontent with the Saudi Royal Family which threatened the government during the outbreak of the Arab Spring continues to grow. The Royal Family is now threatened by escalating protests in nearby Bahrain against political repression and human rights violations by joint Bahrain-Saudi military forces.”
She said that the crackdowns are now being implemented to quell further protests against rising unemployment and “to dispel and rid of oppositionist groups against the Royal Family which are believed to be led by expats and migrants in Saudi.”
“This is not simply Saudi implementing a new and more rigorous immigration policy. This is political discrimination, repression and prosecution of migrants in Saudi. The Philippine government should take a stand against this,” Bragas-Regalado said.
As of this posting, the Philippine government is yet to take action. “Wala naman daw kasing Pilipinong naapektuhan at wala pa raw nakukuhang guidelines from the Saudi Ministry of Labor.”
However, Bragas-Regalado said that Migrante already has a growing list of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Saudi directly affected by the crackdowns. “They are either in deportation centers, in jail or in fear of their lives and welfare. Only the PH embassy is allowed access to deportation centers and jails. Kung naghihintay pa rin sila hanggang ngayong ng so-called guidelines, we have a bigger problem in our hands.”
Bragas-Regalado also called on other sending countries whose nationals are affected by the crackdowns to issue statements and take a stand against the Saudi government’s discrimination and political prosecution of migrants and expats. Aside from Filipinos, Palestinians, Indians, Egyptians, Yemenis, Pakistanis, Thais and Koreans make up most the migrant population in Saudi. ###