MANILA, Philippines - Instead of blacklisting runaway overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), abusive employers in Saudi Arabia should be barred under the new employment policy there, a migrants’ advocacy group said.
In a letter to Philippine officials in Saudi Arabia, Migrante’s Middle East chapter said the new policy puts the blame wrongly on foreign workers instead of employers who are subjecting these workers to various forms of maltreatment and labor malpractices.
"It should be erring and abusive employers that need to be blacklisted in hiring our workers, not the other way around," said Migrante regional coordinator John Leonard Monterona.
Based on Migrante Saudi Arabia’s records, there were 1,793 cases of OFWs requesting repatriation as of December 31, 2008. Of the total, 566 ran away from their employers, while 1,019 were in various “distress" situations.
"We believe running away from abusive employers is the only way out for our distressed OFWs to save their lives. They should not be punished as they are the victims here," Monterona added.
A GMANews.TV source in Saudi Arabia explained that under the new policy, all entering expatriates will be scanned for fingerprints for the kingdom’s database. Employers could no longer ask immigration officials to take a foreign employee’s name out of the blacklist. The SR2,000 fine for blacklist removal is also not applicable. [See: OFWs in KSA warned of new immigration rule]
Deportees are required to take a Saudi Arabian Airlines flight out of the country, “"but the deportee will surely be delayed in his return because of the long process and difficulty in booking a (Saudia) flight," said the source, who has assisted many workers in the Middle East in leaving abusive employers.
Welfare Officer Romualdo Exmundo of the Philippine Consulate General in Jeddah 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. [See: OFWs' tales of struggles and despair in Jeddah]
The other runaway workers are from India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Indonesia.
But the GMANews.TV source said trooping to the Al Khandara bridge can only expedite the deportation of runaway maids, and not males or skilled workers.
Police records would have to be checked first for runaway men and skilled workers before they get deported. They also need their employer’s go-signal before they are allowed to leave the country, the source warned. - GMANews.TV