Jeddah has a systematic deportation system to deal with the perennial problem of overstaying foreigners who go on pilgrimage to the nearby holy cities of Makkah (Mecca) and Madinah (Medina).
To encourage overstayers to leave, the Immigration and Passport Department accepts those who wish to be deported by waiving required travel documents and accrued fines and providing plane tickets.
Jeddah officials, however, often extend the favor to runaway workers if they are in groups. To take advantage of this exit option, runaways and other overstayers of different nationalities — notably Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Sri Lankans and Filipinos — often set up camp under the Khandara overpass in central Jeddah to make themselves conspicuous. When their numbers swell, immigration police begin to round them up and deport them to their respective countries.
Expatriates who have committed crimes are believed to have used this window as an escape route, although some have been reported caught. - GMANews.TV
About 170 stranded overseas Filipino workers (OFW) in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia will soon be repatriated to the Philippines, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Friday.
“All 170 have been endorsed to the Saudi immigration," DFA undersecretary for migrant workers affairs Esteban Conejos Jr. told reporters during a press conference held in Manila on Friday.
Conejos, citing a report from the Philippine Consulate General in Jeddah, said that the workers are currently staying at the Saudi deportation center while their exit papers are being processed. He also said that the consulate is coordinating with Saudi authorities so that they may be repatriated as soon as possible.
According to Anthony Basil, administration staff of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, most of the stranded OFWs are runaways from Riyadh and the Eastern Province.
But instead of seeking help from the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh or the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Alkhobar, many of the workers opted to travel to Jeddah in hopes of being sent home for free by Saudi authorities.
Some of them even lived under the Khandara Overpass, along with other nationals such as Indians, Pakistanis, and Bangladeshis, who are also trying to attract the attention of Saudi police so that they would be deported to their countries. [See: Distressed OFWs under Jeddah overpass swells again]
Conejos said these kinds of events are not unusual as it usually happens during the same period every year. “Matagal na namin itong inendorse sa Saudi authorities (We have already endorsed this to Saudi authorities in the past)," he said.
The group of 170 Filipinos is already the second batch to be repatriated to Manila. An earlier batch consisting of 100 OFWs have already returned to the country.
The stranded workers, however, have not been left unattended. Filipino community groups in Jeddah have been donating food and other amenities to them.
Officials and migrants rights advocates say that the increasing number of OFW runaways in Saudi Arabia and other Mideastern countries are expected as the number of Filipinos being sent there also continues to rise.
The Filipino community in Saudi Arabia alone is estimated to have reached 1.2 million last year and the figure continues to increase. - GMANews.TV