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Filipino workers swamp Saudi Arabia consulates

Consul punched as Jeddah consulate stormed

Filipino workers swamp Saudi Arabia consulates

Relatives of stranded Filipinos protest in Manila on Tuesday reporter, Manila

May 22, 2013

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Filipino workers in Saudi Arabia trying to beat a deadline to amend their employment status or face arrest have flocked to Philippine consulates, overwhelming consular workers.

The Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila today urged Filipinos looking to leave Saudi Arabia to keep calm.

On Saturday, a group of Filipinos stormed the consulate in Jeddah to demand passports. Several consul employees were reportedly assaulted, including the consul who was allegedly punched by one irate worker.

"The government is doing everything to help them but they must follow procedures prescribed by the Saudi government if they want to be repatriated," Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez said today.

At least 164 undocumented workers, including children, have been repatriated from Saudi Arabia this week, but migrant rights group Migrante yesterday said some 4,000 workers have set up camp around the embassy and consulate to demand immediate repatriation.

Migrante leader Leonard Monterona said the repatriation of workers was "an initial victory," adding that "decisive collective mass action is the best antidote to government inaction."

Relatives of stranded workers, however, trooped to the Foreign Affairs office in Manila to call on the government to implement a "free, swift, and mass repatriation" of workers.

The Saudi government has given the workers until July 4 to correct their employment status as the government fully implements the "Nitaqat" system, which prioritizes the employment of Saudis over migrant workers.

Undocumented workers who continue to stay in the Kingdom face immediate arrest. Penalties include detention, deportation or being blacklisted from the country for life.  

Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah earlier suspended the crackdown to give expatriates the chance to amend their work permits.  

Philippine officials fear that some 20,000 Filipinos have entered Saudi Arabia without proper papers.

The kingdom remains a top destination, with about 1.5 million Filipino overseas workers there currently.

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