NGO welcomes Saudi King’s intervention to suspend crackdown; calls on PH gov’t to augment embassy personnel and resources for Saudi Arabia
The Blas F. Ople Policy Center, a non-government organization that assists distressed overseas Filipino workers, lauded the decision of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud to order the Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Labor to stop the crackdown on foreign workers without proper work documents for three months, to enable these workers to correct their status.
The announcement was made through the Saudi Press Agency, and was quickly shared by grateful Filipino workers in Saudi Arabia through their respective Facebook accounts.
“Thousands of OFWs in Saudi Arabia without proper documents are overjoyed by this announcement because they can now at least freely move around and seek the embassy’s help in correcting their status. However, three months can go by fast, so we hope that our diplomatic posts in Saudi Arabia can be given the resources and personnel needed to help our OFWs take advantage of the grace period,” Susan Ople, head of the Blas F. Ople Center, said.
Ople noted that the announcement also made it clear that the law will be enforced against those who remain in violation after the grace period of three months is over.
She noted that that thousands of OFWs who have lost touch with their original sponsors would require the help of the Philippine Embassy in Riyahd and other diplomatic offices in Saudi Arabia for help and guidance in order to beat the three-months grace period.
The former labor undersecretary recalled that the Department of Foreign Affairs, on the prodding of the Senate, agreed to shut down several overseas posts to generate savings that can be used to build the capacities and enhances services of Philippine diplomatic posts in the Middle East.
“Last year, ten foreign posts in other countries were closed down by the DFA and DBM to shift more resources to our embassies in the Middle East. We ask now the Philippine government to immediately allocate part of those savings to augment the resources of our embassy in Saudi Arabia as well as in other countries in the Middle East so that they can better serve our workers,” the Ople Center stressed.
On March 25, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s Council of Ministers approved a specific amendment to Article 39 of the Saudi Labor Law, to wit:
- “It is not allowed for an employer to let his (foreign) worker go out and work for others. It is also not allowed for a worker to engage in work for another employer. The employer is not allowed to employ workers who are under the sponsorship of others. The Ministry of Labor shall inspect the firms and investigate the violations discovered by its inspectors, and then forward them to the Ministry of Interior to take penal actions against them.”
- “The employer is not allowed to let his worker engage in work for his own benefit. The worker would also not be permitted to work on his own account. The Ministry of Interior shall arrest, deport and take punitive measures against these violators who are working for their own benefit in the streets and public squares as well as against those who run away (from their sponsors).” (Unofficial translation based on English media reports)
The changes to the labor law also mandated the creation of an inter-agency team led by the Ministry of Labor (MOL) to carry out inspections to catch violators and refer them to the Ministry of Interior (MOI) for appropriate penal action. This order was the basis for Saudi authorities to go from workplace to workplace in order to inspect the “Iqamas” or residence cards of foreign workers. With the King’s directive, the inspection work of the inter-agency team has been suspended for three months. ###