New Saudi rule unlikely to affect OFWs

Migrante International on Thursday welcomed the information about the new rule on customs declaration implemented in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), but at the same time cautioned the labor department against “possibly propping up the notion that overseas Filipino workers may be conduits for terrorist funding or money laundering.”

“While information about the new rule is certainly welcome – our experience tells us it is unlikely that the average OFW will be entering or leaving Saudi Arabia with more than US$16,000 or about P704,000,” said Migrante International chairperson Connie Bragas-Regalado in a press statement.

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) recently issued an advisory on the KSA rule, which requires all Saudis or expatriates to declare cash, jewelry or precious metals worth more than US$16,000 to Saudi customs.

“If anything, OFWs will enter the KSA deep in debt and then leave with several months’ salary still owing to them,” Regalado said.

The group also cautioned the Arroyo government against “perpetuating anew the notion that OFWs, especially those going to the Middle East, are possible ‘terrorists’ or money launderers.”

They claimed that in April 2005, the Department of Justice instructed the National Bureau of Investigation to closely monitor OFWs from the Middle East, especially Filipino Muslims, because they may come home “terrorist infected”.

Migrante added that also in 2005, the Special Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs launched an investigation into reports that OFW remittances in Saudi Arabia were used to launder jueteng money.

“If anything, OFWs coming back from the Middle East are likely to be bruised, battered or broke given the horrendous human rights violations against migrant workers in that region,” said Regalado.

Majority of Migrante’s Rights and Welfare Cases are from the Middle East, especially Saudi Arabia.

Among the common abuses include sexual harassment, non-payment of wages, physical and emotional abuse, contract substitution and the withholding of passports.

There are approximately one million OFWs in Saudi Arabia, and since the inception of the Philippines’ Labor Export Program in the 1970s, it has been the biggest “importer” of OFWs.


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