Amnesty helps thousands legalize status

Amnesty helps thousands legalize status
Updated 10 November 2013

Amnesty helps thousands legalize status

Amnesty helps thousands legalize status

With calm returning after days of frenzied activities in the run-up to the Nov. 3 amnesty deadline, foreign missions reviewed the status of their workers in the Kingdom on Thursday.
Philippine Ambassador Ezzedin H. Tago said the embassy helped regularize the status of 157,494 Filipinos during the seven-month correction period. Indian Consul General Faiz Ahmed Kidwai said some 12,000 Indians returned home while 4,000 legalized their status. Sri Lankan officials said over 15,000 Sri Lankans could not correct their status and were repatriated.
“On behaf of the Philippine government, I thank Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah for the grace period,” Tago said during a meeting with Foreign Undersecretary for Consular Affairs Usamah Al-Senousi.
He said Filipinos were able to rectify their status either through employment transfer or profession correction.
The envoy cited statistics from the Ministry of Labor, which said that 53,330 Filipinos transferred employment and 104,364 changed or corrected professions in their work permits and iqamas.
During the meeting with Senousi, Tago noted that “the statistics were very detailed and categorized by profession, activity and region.”
“They revealed that Filipinos benefited greatly from the correction period and that a large number were able to regularize their status in the Kingdom. More importantly, the statistics reveal that the majority corrected their status across the Kingdom through the initiative of their existing or new employer,” he said.
According to ministry statistics, 38,939 Filipinos left on final exit visas during the correction period. This figure included those who left after the end of their contract. Those who left on final exit visas during the correction period will be able to return to the Kingdom in the future. This does not include Filipinos who may have a criminal record.
As of Nov. 5, the Philippine government bore the cost of the repatriation of 2,018 of its citizens from Jeddah, 2,332 from Riyadh and 141 from the Eastern Region.
The Philippine Embassy in Riyadh and the Consulate General in Jeddah continue to repatriate Filipinos and 81 expats are currently being booked on flights to the Philippines.

6,000 Indians get passports
Kidwai, the Indian consul general, said 21,000 Indian workers received emergency certificates out of 27,000 applicants. About 5,000 to 6,000 received new passports to transfer their sponsorships.
“My assumption is that at least 4,000 have been successful in transferring their sponsorships to their new companies." He said those who were unsuccessful have decided to go home.
He said the consulate processed 12,000 exit visas at the deportation center for all categories including iqama holders, non-iqama holders, and Haj, Umrah, and visit visa overstayers.
“We got their cases processed, the final exits stamped, and gave them back their passports to travel,” he said.
Another 7,000 to 8,000 Indians with sponsors outside Jeddah were given letters to have their cases processed in those areas. He said some have returned to the consulate because they were not covered by the amnesty.
Kidwai said the amnesty has been good because it helped many Indians legalize their status and given others an opportunity to go home and then return on valid visas.
He thanked the volunteers who helped the consulate with the processing of documentation, particularly on Tuesdays at the deportation center. "We guided our nationals to them in all outstation areas. They have done a wonderful job. Without them I'm sure we would not have achieved as much as we did,” he said.
Kidwai said it would take at least a month to flush out illegal workers and deport them. However, many workers seeking transfers are in limbo because their cases are with either the labor court or the Passport Department.
In other cases, workers do not know their sponsors. He said some of the workers came into the Kingdom during the amnesty period, or were declared absconders after the amnesty was announced. He said there are no clear-cut guidelines on how to deal with these cases and whether they would be deported or allowed to stay, he said.
1,200 Lankans without iqamas
Mangala Randeniya, deputy spokesperson of the Sri Lankan Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE), said at a media briefing in Sri Lanka earlier this week that 16,000 applicants had received travel documents.
“Ninety percent of them have been permitted to leave the country,” said Randeniya. “Around 15,000 workers should have arrived on the island during the amnesty period."
He said about 1,000 to 1,200 Sri Lankans are in Saudi Arabia without residency permits and the consulate would help to repatriate them.
“We managed to free around 15,000 from punishment,” said Dilan Perera, minister of foreign employment promotion and welfare at the SLBFE. He said the Sri Lankan government would seek lesser penalties and repatriation for them.
M.B.M. Zarook, first secretary to the consul general, said that 10,700 Sri Lankans were sent home during the amnesty extension from July 4 to Nov. 3.
Zarook said only a few Sri Lankan workers were arrested during the raids after the amnesty ended, but were released shortly afterward.
Vadivel Krishnamoorthy, the Sri Lankan ambassador, recently urged illegal workers to approach the embassy for assistance even though the amnesty has ended.
Sri Lankan and other Asian countries have asked the Saudi authorities through diplomatic channels to be patient with workers who are still waiting for their paperwork to be processed despite applying on time.
Zarook said the diplomatic mission has received major support from the SLBFE during this period.

- Rodolfo C. Estimo Jr., Habib Shaikh & Fadia Jiffry contributed to this report