'Saudization' plan leads to human rights lapses Posted by Yel Cobile, IT Admin & Correspondent on April 1, 2013, 7:48 pm
(By Ronald O. Reyes | Source:Manila Standard Today, 2 Apr 2013)
About 7,000 Filipinos were stranded while awaiting repatriation from Saudi Arabia following a crackdown on undocumented migrant workers as part of the government’s "Saudization" program, a Filipino migrant rights group said on Monday.
Migrante party-list chairperson Connie Bragas-Regalado said the crackdown has resulted in various human rights violations against eight million migrant workers, including 1.2 million Filipinos.
"We have received reports that the Saudi government has been presently conducting intensified crackdowns on undocumented migrant workers as part of the implementation of the Nitaqat or Saudization program," Bragas-Regalado said.
"We are greatly disturbed by complaints and accounts of illegal arrests, damage to properties and other abuses by Saudi authorities," she said.
The crackdown followed amendments to Saudi Arabia’s labor law, giving power to the Saudi Labor Ministry to “inspect and investigate” undocumented and overstaying migrant workers. Authorities arrest workers, who were not connected with a company.
The new law, which was implemented in 2011, gives priority to nationals on job openings. Migrant workers with terminated contracts were immediately deported.
Bragas-Regalado said most Filipino workers were easy targets as undocumented after running away from abusive employers, while others were victims of human trafficking.
"We call on the Philippine government to investigate and assist Filipino workers victimized by the crackdown and to facilitate their immediate repatriation. Regardless of status, their rights should be respected and their welfare taken care of," she said.