Migrante International – Saudi Arabia chapter, is sounding the alarm on the massive crackdown happening in the Kingdom. The group cited the report of the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) that more than 1.5 million people have been arrested in Saudi Arabia as of August 2, as part of the Kingdom’s ongoing campaign against illegal residents.
“While most of those arrested so far are Yemenis and Ethiopians, the Filipino community in the Kingdom is also affected by the said crackdown,” said Rod De Leon, Chairman, MIGRANTE-KSA. “Checkpoints were set-up in different parts of the cities of Riyadh, Jeddah and in the Eastern provinces. The Saudi’s Ministry of Labor is randomly inspecting different companies if they are employing illegal aliens,” he added.
The reported crackdown on illegal residents and workers comes after the amnesty program launched on March of last year and extended up to September 2017. OFWs however are saying that this is the first time they are seeing officials of the Labor Ministry themselves inspecting offices of companies and establishments.
“We are concerned that we have not heard anything from the Duterte Administration on their contingency plans to repatriate OFWs who will be affected by the crackdown,” explains Beng Medina, Chairwoman, GABRIELA-KSA. “The only things we have heard from the President so far are empty praises and commitments in his State of the Nation Address (SONA) while at the same time intensifying the deployment of cheap labor in vulnerable and exploitative working conditions abroad,” said Medina.
Migrante is pertaining to the recent speech of President Duterte during his last SONA where he expressed his admiration of the selflessness and courage of OFWs in enduring the hardships of living away from home to provide for their families. President Duterte also pledged his commitment to ensure the well-being of OFWs as its foremost foreign policy concern.
“This is the time for the President to put his money where his mouth is. Prior to the crackdown, more than a thousand OFWs were already seeking repatriation from the Philippine embassy and consulate offices in Riyadh, Jeddah and the Easter Provinces in Saudi Arabia. We fear that this number will multiply if the crackdown continues,” Rod De Leon concluded.
Beng Medina explained that the recent crackdown is also a part of a new policy called “Saudi First” in the job sectors. The said policy is the revised Nitaqat or Saudization program where only few companies can apply for new visas for expatriate employees that started from September of last year.
“With the record-high unemployment rate at present and the failure of the President to deliver on his campaign promise to end contractualization, many OFWs are afraid to return to the Philippines despite the risk of getting caught by Saudi authorities,” added Medina.
Both Migrante and Gabriela chapters in the Kingdom are calling for a comprehensive plan for massive repatriation and assistance programs upon the return of OFWs in their hometowns. The groups are dismayed by what the alleged “unclear disposition of the Philippine missions in Saudi Arabia in the midst of the current crackdown.”
There are more than a million OFWs working in Saudi Arabia, more than 700,000 of whom are domestic workers. OFW remittances from the Kingdom were registered at about USD$ 2.5 billion last year. The Philippines deploys more than 7,000 Filipinos daily to work in different countries abroad. One of the top destinations of OFWs is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. ###
Mr. Rod De Leon
Chairman, MIGRANTE, KSA
Mrs. Beng Medina
Chairwoman, GABRIELA , KSA