Crackdowns on undocumented migrant workers spreading in more countries

Since 2010, thousands upon thousands of OFWs in distress have been deported or forcibly repatriated back to the country due to civil unrest, calamities, economic instability, and other similar factors in migrant-receiving countries.” Garry Martinez, Migrante International


MANILA – Overseas Filipino workers in Saudi Arabia will file a complaint with concerned agencies and different national and international human rights organizations for the violent dispersal and arrest of 40 undocumented Filipino workers last June 30.

“We strongly condemn this latest incident of violence and undue attacks against stranded OFWs who only wish to fast track their repatriation. The OFWs were clearly under Philippine jurisdiction. They were on Philippine territory. They were not violating any Saudi law,” Garry Martinez, chairperson of Migrante International, said.

Martinez added that they would hold Philippine ambassador Ezzedin Tago, Labor attaché Adam Musa and Welfare officer Abdullah Umpa, who, according to OFWs they have talked with, masterminded the dispersal and the arrest.

Migrante-Middle East, in a previous report, said that about 40 stranded Filipinos staged a sit-in demonstration inside the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Riyadh to demand for their immediate repatriation.

Thousands of undocumented Filipinos have been living in tent cities in both Riyadh and Jeddah to demand free and immediate mass repatriation of those affected by Saudization Policy, a scheme implemented by Saudi government that requires businesses and firms to hire its nationals who should comprise at least 10 percent of their total workforce.

The said policy, also referred to as the Nitaqat Scheme, has resulted to crackdowns against undocumented workers including Filipinos, Bangladeshis, Indonesians, among others. The Saudi government recently extended the deadline for undocumented migrant workers to either fix their status or leave the host country from July 3 to Nov. 3, 2012.

Of about 11,500 undocumented Filipinos, Philippine consul general Uriel Normal Garibay said 6,000 want to go home. But Migrante International said only a handful has been repatriated. On top of the seeming slow action of the Philippine government, embassy officials were also accused of making sexual advances on distressed women OFWs in exchange for tickets to Manila.

Although the arrested Filipinos have already been released, Migrante International, in a statement, said they would still pursue the complaints. Martinez said no Philippine official came to the aid of Filipinos who were being dispersed despite holding the peaceful protest action inside the premises of the Philippine embassy.

Three OFWs were arrested by Saudi police during the dispersal namely, Reden Caboboy, Fernand Morante and Glenn Mark Corbilla. Several were hurt and their children were traumatized.

Martinez demanded all concerned government agencies to “instruct and direct Philippine post officials to cease and desist from harassing and attacking stranded OFWs.” He added that the officials who were involved already have pending complaints for their alleged neglect, abuse of authority and conduct unbecoming of public officials.

(Photo courtesy of Migrante International /
(Photo courtesy of Migrante International /

Poor conditions

Migrante-Middle East also warned the Philippine government that more deaths could happen among the old and sickly stranded Filipinos who are temporarily residing in government run-shelters.

The Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed to the media that a 20-month-old boy died in one of their shelters in Jeddah. DFA’s Hernandez said the child died on June 30 due to a heart attack.

Migrante Middle East regional coordinator John Leonard Monterona said that earlier a two-year-old child also died sometime in mid-June in a consulate shelter.

“There was also an old and sick woman who died last month inside the Philippine consulate shelter in Jeddah. There have been five deaths so far, three were already confirmed by Philippine officials in Saudi Arabia, while two remain to be confirmed,” Monterona revealed.

This, he said, should serve as a warning to the government to fast track the repatriation of undocumented Filipinos.

Crackdown in Japan, Korea

Migrante International also expressed its concern over the ongoing crackdown and mass deportation, this time in Japan and in South Korea.

The Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed last July 9, 2013 the deportation of 75 Filipinos from Japan. DFA spokesperson Raul Hernandez said they violated Japan’s immigration laws. In the past, however, overstaying immigrants were not deported without their consent.

“It’s only now that the Japanese government is deporting foreign nationals even without their consent. They made a new policy regarding the deportation of foreign nationals,” Hernandez said in a Manila Bulletin report.

The 75 Filipinos, who, according to the DFA, are composed of 54 males, 13 females and eight children, were “forcibly taken from their detention facilities very early in the morning of July 6, some were still even in their sleepwear, and then herded by bus straight to the Narita International Airport,” Migrante International said in a statement.

In South Korea, the government is also conducting crackdowns against undocumented migrants that would affect roughly 40,000 to 50,000 undocumented Filipinos working there. The crackdown, according to Migrante International, is a result of the South Korean government’s labor policy, the Employment Permit System (EPS).

EPS allows Korean employers to legally employ migrant workers should they fail to hire nationals. It has allowed about 500,000 migrant workers from the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Mongolia and Indonesia to come and work in South Korea. The Philippines, for its part, signed an agreement with the Korean government on the EPS in 2006.

But Martinez, who once worked in South Korea for 12 years, said EPS has been “proven flawed and anti-migrant and should be scrapped,” adding that it has failed to ensure the benefits and protection of the rights of migrant workers.

Martinez said its implementation paved the way for the soaring number of cases of labor and human rights violations against migrant workers. Just like in Saudi, he said, Filipinos in Korea have become undocumented workers after escaping from abusive employers. This situation is continuing, he said, because there is “no monitoring system and companies and employers violate migrant workers’ rights without being held accountable. More Korean employers have been hiring undocumented migrants to be able to evade compliance on minimum wages, benefits and leaves.”

“The present global economic crisis has unleashed so-called ‘protectionist measures’ characterized by crackdown operations and harsher immigration policies that bear down on irregular or undocumented workers, at the expense of their human rights,” Martinez said.

‘Reverse migration’

Migrante International said the widespread crackdown of undocumented migrant workers in the Middle East, Japan and South Korea, Europe, Canada and the United States, along with the continuous repatriation of Filipinos in Egypt, Syria and Libya will definitely bring about the ‘reverse migration’ of Filipinos that the Aquino government is claiming.

“If the government is attributing the so-called ‘reverse migration’ due to these factors, then it is right on spot. Since 2010, thousands upon thousands of OFWs in distress have been deported or forcibly repatriated back to the country due to civil unrests, calamities, economic instabilities and other similar factors in migrant-receiving countries,” Martinez said.

Aside from Saudi Arabia, Migrante International said, stricter immigration and labor policies are also being implemented in other countries in the Middle East such as in Kuwait, Bahrain, Jordan and Oman. Even receiving countries such as in Europe, Canada and in the United states are also implementing stricter immigration measures.

He added, however, that attributing reverse migration due to the reported economic boom is “outright deceitful and misleading.”

Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz was quoted as saying in a Philippine Daily Inquirer report that Filipinos are now returning to the country to find more lucrative jobs here. She said the government found a new trend and that it is mainly due to the growing tourism and entertainment industry in the country.

“I think we are seeing a rise in the entertainment industry, within that sector… we are seeing a reverse migration because of the high-end quality jobs being offered by these firms,” Baldoz said.

But Migrante International said, Filipinos will not return for good with the high unemployment rate and the lack of comprehensive and sustainable reintegration program for returning OFWs.

Martinez said, “Filipinos will not be stopped from being forced to leave the country in search for ‘greener pastures’ abroad. And so the cycle continues.” (

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