Issue date: April 17, 2017

150 distressed OFWs to arrive in Manila Monday: Bello

150 “runaway” overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Saudi Arabia have been allowed to go home upon the return of President Rodrigo R. Duterte from his state visit to the Middle East, Philippine Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III said in a press briefing on Sunday.

According to Mr. Bello, the Kingdom permitted the repatriation of these distressed Filipino workers who are expected to arrive in Manila at 3:30 a.m. Monday.

For its part, the Qatari labor ministry had also committed to “consider” sending home about 86 OFWs in Qatar, Mr. Bello disclosed. “Hopefully we can obtain their release in a month or two,” he added.

The “runaway” Filipino expats are those undocumented who fell victim to illegal recruitment, the labor chief explained.

Saudi Arabia is home to more than 7,000 Filipino migrant workers. In the Kingdom’s capital of Riyadh alone, 21 Filipinos are facing various immigration problems while a total of 31 OFWs are on death row in the predominantly Muslim country.

Meanwhile, more 200,000 migrant Filipino workers are in Qatar -- three of them sentenced to life imprisonment for espionage.

The Middle East remains to be the Philippines’ second largest source of remittances from Filipino expats, with 28% or almost $7.6 billion in 2016. The region has also remained the top-of-mind choice for them, according to the Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs.

Before flying to the Gulf states, Mr. Duterte said he would bring home with him some distressed Filipino workers in Saudi Arabia, particularly those already given “clearance” by the Saudi government.

In his visit, labor agreements for OFWs were signed, including those on proper labor standards, better wages, protection from maltreatment, and fixed working hours, among other concerns.

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