The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) will repatriate at least 5,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFW) who are currently stranded at various cities in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA).
Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III said the labor department is taking advantage of the 90-day amnesty period given by the government of Saudi for all undocumented foreign individuals.
“A team composed of senior officials will be flying to Saudi this April to bring home at least 5,000 undocumented and stranded OFW’s. This is our top priority. We will do our best to process their travel documents as soon as possible,” Bello said.
Following the amnesty given by Saudi Arabia, Bello directed Undersecretary Dominador Say, who is also the OIC of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) to lead the repatriation mission team in Saudi and bring home the stranded OFWs safely.
In an interview, Say noted that after their arrival in Saudi, they will be facilitating the repatriation delegation, and get more individuals to assist them in processing the travel documents and papers of the stranded OFWs. The team will also be setting up three processing centers which are located in Riyadh, Al Khobar, and in Jeddah.
“We will need as many people as we can who are knowledgeable in processing these documents of the OFWs for immediate repatriation. We have to take advantage of the amnesty and bring them safely back home within the period given by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” Say explained.
The 90-day amnesty will cover undocumented, and overstaying foreign individuals of Umrah, Hajj and visit visa holders; OFWs with expired iqamas (residence permits), or have never been issued an iqama; Huroob cases or those who escaped from their employers; and OFWs who were abandoned by their employers, including their dependents.
The amnesty applications of OFWs with the said cases will be processed free of penalties, and will be given with exit permits, and issued with exemption in acquiring certificate of no objection from their employers. They will also be exempted from the usual “deportee fingerprint system” and will be able to return to the kingdom legally. However, undocumented OFWs who have police cases, traffic violations and bank obligations are not entitled for the amnesty.
Say added that aside from processing their travel documents and clearances, the government will be paying for the plane tickets of the stranded OFWs going back to the Philippines.
“We understand that they are distressed. Those who prefer to stay are allowed to stay because some of them have already found a job. However, more OFWs want to go home, that’s the mission of the delegation: to take advantage of the amnesty, and bring home all stranded OFWs in Saudi,” Say reiterated.
Meantime, the DOLE senior official also ensured that the labor department, OWWA, and the Bureau of Local Employment (BLE) are ready to assist the repatriated OFWs when they arrive in the Philippines. They will be given livelihood assistance for them to continue earning income while still looking for a regular job in the country.