19k stranded ME OFWs sent home

The government has brought home a total of 19,201 stranded and undocumented overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) through its intensified repatriation campaign for distressed Filipino workers in the Middle East.

The repatriation is being undertaken under the Relief Assistance Program (RAP) of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), at a cost of close to P500 million from July 2016 to March this year.

Most of the repatriated workers were from Riyadh, Jeddah, and Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia.

Aside from documentation, the OFWs were also provided with monetary and livelihood assistance upon their return.

“Through our repatriation program, we manifest the government’s response to ensure the welfare and safety of our modern heroes and bring them back home to their families,” Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III said.

In order to further assist the displaced and repatriated workers, OWWA and the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) had been conducting job fairs in various provinces in the country, on top of skills development trainings offered by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).

The latest to be sent home were 139 OFWs stranded in Saudi Arabia who were among those granted amnesty by the Saudi government for undocumented foreign nationals.

The labor chief had accompanied President Duterte in a three-nation swing of the Middle East last week to bring home stranded OFWs and undocumented Filipinos. Bello earlier formed a repatriation team headed by Undersecretary Dominador Say to extend airport assistance to the repatriates which includes travel document processing, use of a special immigration lane, and baggage assistance

Say, who also serves as the POEA OIC, said his team formed three processing centers at Riyadh, Al Khobar, and in Jeddah to expedite the processing of travel documents of distressed Filipino workers.

The OFWs will be given exit permits and will be exempted from paying fines and penalties associated to violating Saudi residency law, labor system, and border security in the Kingdom. They are also exempted from undergoing deportee fingerprint system and will be able to return to the kingdom legally.