OFWs getting hit by 'Saudization'

Posted at 07/10/2011 11:34 AM | Updated as of 07/11/2011 6:55 AM

OFWs in Saudi Arabia reluctant to take vacations - Migrante

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are reluctant to go back to the Philippines for their vacations, as Saudi immigration officers have started stamping “exit only” on their passports.

Recruitment consultant Emmanuel Geslani said in a statement today that many OFWs who recently returned to the country had their passports stamped “exit only.”

Thus, they will not be allowed to enter Saudi Arabia when they come back from vacation.

Overseas Workers Welfare Administration chief Carmelita Dimzon said she has yet to talk to posts in Saudi Arabia and confirm the reports.

In a statement, however, Makkah province passport department spokesman Mohammad Al Husayn said there is no truth to the reports. "If it is an exit, re-entry, then it cannot be changed at the airports. The final exit is stamped only after a series of steps are taken both by the employee and employer."

John Leonard Monterona of Migrante-Middle East also said, however, that their organization has been receiving reports of OFWs whose passports were stamped “exit only,” despite having exit/re-entry visas.

"There were 4 OFW-engineers who have called me and our Migrante officers in Riyadh as they were surprised that their respective exit/re-entry visa had been stamped 'Exit' only by the Saudi immigration officer at the counter," Monterona said in a statement.

Some OFWs are now postponing their vacations for fear of not being given a re-entry visa by Saudi immigration authorities.

Monterona added that this was a possible effect of Saudization, which requires that at least 10% of a company’s staff be made up of Saudi locals.

Under the Saudization program, companies are classified into 4 color-coded categories. Companies in the yellow and red categories are in the danger zone, while green companies are those who are in the process of meeting the quota. Blue companies have already complied with the program.

Monterona said that if the immigration officials discovered that vacationing OFWs were employed by companies on the “red” list, they were forced not to return by marking “exit only” on their visas.

“These incidents only shows the seriousness of the Saudi government in implementing... its Saudization program,” Monterona added.

Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz has estimated that between 20,000-50,000 OFWs may be affected by Saudization.