JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia - Overseas Filipino workers (OFW) in Saudi Arabia have been warned of a new immigration rule blacklisting foreign workers that are reported by their employers to have run away.
Welfare Officer Romualdo Exmundo of the Philippine Consulate General in Jeddah said the new policy makes runaway workers more vulnerable to deportation, which means they no longer have any chance of returning to Saudi Arabia to work.
In the past, an abscondment report could be canceled if a runaway worker paid the penalty with the Immigration department. A worker could then transfer to another employer or apply for an exit visa in order to leave the country legally, and still have the option to return.
“This policy is really disappointing. It doesn’t seem advantageous on the part of the worker," Exmundo said.
On the other hand, he noted that some foreign workers who want to leave the Kingdom are “encouraged" to run away from their employers so that they could go home immediately.
“Mabilis ang processing, mabilis ang pag uwi. I heard that in about three days nakakauwi yung mga napi-pickup for deportation [The processing is faster. Those picked up by the Immigration department for deportation are sent home in about three days]," he said.
Exmundo said some runaway OFWs have even left the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration shelter at the consulate in Jeddah to join other expatriates who are staying under an overpass in Khandara District, in the hope that immigration police would arrest and deport them.
The other runaway workers are from India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Indonesia.
“There is nothing that we can do because many employers do not communicate with us anymore. Whatever we do to try to contact them, nothing happens because even the workers themselves are hiding from us," he said.
More than one million Filipinos are estimated to be working in Saudi Arabia, of whom 20,000 are undocumented. - With Kimberly Jane Tan, GMANews.TV