Saudis took our things, OFWs claim
MANILA, Philippines—The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has directed the Philippine consulate in Jeddah to look into allegations that Saudi immigration authorities confiscated the personal belongings of 56 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who were about to board their Manila-bound flight on Monday.
Foreign Assistant Secretary J. Eduardo Malaya on Tuesday said they were “taking these allegations seriously.”
“The DFA has requested the Philippine consulate to make representations with Saudi immigration authorities and look into it,” Malaya, also DFA spokesperson, told the Inquirer.
When contacted, the Saudi Embassy in Makati City said it would look into the matter.
The other day, Philippine ambassador-designate to Riyadh Ezzedin Tago he would “immediately inform the consulate in Jeddah about this.”
“There may be new (airport) procedures being implemented by Saudi authorities,” Tago said.
The 56 OFWs were among thousands of overstaying Philippine nationals in the Middle East kingdom who availed themselves of the DFA’s repatriation program.
On Monday, they took an Etihad flight from Jeddah to Manila via Abu Dhabi.
Alighting at Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) Terminal 1, they surprised arrival area personnel when they appeared without shoelaces, belts and any hand-carried bags, unlike regular returning passengers.
The repatriates told the Naia staff that “for undisclosed reasons, Saudi immigration authorities confiscated our personal items.”
The Riyadh-based OFW advocacy group Migrante-Middle East (M-ME) on Tuesday condemned the “act allegedly committed by Saudi airport personnel in Jeddah.”
M-ME regional coordinator John Leonard Monterona called on the DFA to “file a formal protest with Saudi authorities so that this incident will never happen again.”
On Tuesday, another 125 undocumented OFWs were scheduled to fly back to Manila from Jeddah, according to the DFA Public Information Service Unit.
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