Filipinos protest for workers in Saudi Arabia

Philippine officials negotiating waiving of fees to be paid by undocumented workers

Gulf News

Manila: Relatives of Filipino workers in Saudi Arabia established a “tent city” outside Manila’s foreign affairs office, aping a similar move of 2,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the country who have been asking the government to fast-track assistance for their repatriation following Saudi Arabia’s campaign to purge undocumented workers there.

The camp in front of the foreign affairs department on Manila’s Roxas Boulevard will remain until May 1, organisers told Gulf News.

“We are in a show of solidarity with our relatives in Jeddah,” sad a protester who requested anonymity.

The foreign affairs department should work faster for fast-track repatriation of OFWs, said another protester.

In response, security personnel closed the gates and covered the signage of the foreign affairs’ office.

Manila’s foreign affairs office sent Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Jesus Yabes and Assistant Secretary for Middle East and Africa Petronila Garcia to negotiate better terms with Saudi Arabian officials for the repatriation of OFWs.

Philippine foreign officials have been negotiating for the waiving of several fees to be paid by the undocumented workers, which will be shouldered by the Philippine government since the stranded OFWs have been out of work and can no longer seek employment legally, sources told Gulf News.

As negotiations have remained inconclusive, the OFWs decided on April 11 to forge a united front to press for government assistance in their repatriation, the sources said, adding this has placed the Philippine government in a bind in assisting OFWs in Saudi Arabia.

As a result, the Philippine government has failed to convince the stranded OFWs to accept offers for them to stay separately at different places that were offered by the Philippine government, said sources.

A majority of the stranded OFWs rejected an offer of a “friend” of the Philippine consulate’s office — a place that can accommodate 80 women and children and 90 men, said Philippine Consul General in Jeddah Uriel Norman Garibay.

“A few also decided to stay at the upper deck of the Philippine Consulate’s office which was built with a rooftop to accommodate 100 stranded OFWs,” said Manila’s foreign affairs secretary Albert del Rosario.

“We’re not getting the cooperation of the people who are out there in the [Jeddah] camp,” said del Rosario.

Meanwhile, the Philippine consulate has been providing electricity, food, shelter, medicine, and water to stranded OFWs.

Saudi Arabia’s crackdown on illegal workers was suspended until July 4.

More than one million OFWs are based in Saudi Arabia.

A total of nine million OFWs are based worldwide. They have been sending an average of $20 billion (Dh73.44 billion) a year to their loved ones in the Philippines.

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