Group condemns rights violations in intensified crackdowns on undocumented migrants in Saudi

Migrante Partylist today condemned in strongest terms the intensified crackdowns resulting in human rights violations of migrant workers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

“We have received reports that the Saudi government has been presently conducting intensified crackdowns on undocumented migrant workers as part of the implementation of the Nitaqat or Saudization program. The crackdowns are in compliance of an amended Saudi labor law, particularly Article 39, giving power to the Saudi Labor Ministry to ‘inspect and investigate’ undocumented and overstaying migrant workers,” said Connie Bragas-Regalado, Migrante Partylist chairperson and first nominee.

The Saudization policy essentially prioritizes Saudi citizens over migrant workers for employment in Saudi Arabia. Since its first phase of implementation in late 2011, migrant workers have been expelled from the country through non-renewal or termination of contracts.

The Philippine government, however, had repeatedly downplayed the effect of the Saudization policy on overseas Filipino workers in Saudi. There are some 8 million migrant workers in Saudi, of which about 1.2 million are Filipinos.

Bragas-Regalado said that the new immigration policy has so far resulted in abuses, human rights violations and criminalization of undocumented migrant workers. “We are greatly disturbed by complaints and accounts of illegal arrests, damage in properties and other abuses done by Saudi authorities.”

Migrante pegs at least 7,000 undocumented OFWs, some stranded and awaiting repatriation, in Saudi Arabia alone. Most of the OFWs became undocumented after running away from abusive employers, while some were victims of human trafficking.

“We call on the Philippine government to urgently investigate and assist OFWs victimized by the crackdowns and facilitate their immediate repatriation. Regardless of status, their rights should be respected and their welfare taken care of,” Bragas-Regalado said. ###