(2nd Nightlead) PHL embassy, consulate in Saudi seeks extension of grace period for illegal workers

June 25, 2013 10:18 pm 

By Michaela del Callar

MANILA, June 25 (PNA) -– The Philippine government has sought an extension of the 90-day amnesty period for illegal workers in Saudi Arabia, which ends July 3, to give it more time to process the repatriation and legalization of stay of thousands of undocumented Filipino workers in the Kingdom.

“We see that there will be some difficulties in bringing all of the Filipinos who would like to be repatriated back to the Philippines during the grace period before the deadline lapses on July 3,” Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez told a press briefing on Tuesday.

“Our embassy and consulate together with other embassies from other countries and consulates have already requested for the extension of the grace period so that all those who would like to be repatriated are repatriated and those who would like to be regularized or their stay there be legalized are done so.”

Hernandez said the request to extend the grace period is also aimed at preventing the arrest of undocumented Filipinos in Saudi – home to more than 1 million workers from the Philippines.

The crackdown operations against illegal workers in Saudi started on March 28 this year because of the “Saudization” policy (nitaqat) or the policy encouraging the employment of Saudi nationals in private firms.

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah on April 6 ordered a three-month delay to a crackdown on illegal migrant workers, which has led to thousands of deportations.

“We want that grace period extended so there will be no arrest and unnecessary detention of our workers,” Hernandez said.

Manila, he said, is seeking for a longer extension period. Saudi has yet to respond to the request.

“But subject to a new decision from the Saudi government, what we are doing is to really intensify the processing of their papers and also their repatriation,” Hernandez said.

Saudi has agreed to waive certain mandatory requirements, such as some penalty fees and certification from employers, to fast-track the repatriation of illegal workers to the Philippines.

However, many undocumented expatriate workers from other countries are also seeking the same services from the Saudi government, which is believed to be undermanned and has over reached its capacity.

“So far we have already repatriated 590 so there will be thousands more who would need to be repatriated,” Hernandez said. (PNA)

HBC/MDC/UTB

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