MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine government has sought the assistance of the Saudi Social Welfare Agency (SSWA) in the repatriation of nearly 200 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), Malacañang said Sunday.
Manila’s request for help was transmitted when Chief of President Protocol and Presidential Assistant on Foreign Affairs Robert Borje and Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs Sarah Lou Arriola met with Mohammad Ibrahim Jalal, SSWA director-general of the Ministry of Labor and Social Development for Makkah Al-Mukarramah Region in Jeddah on Saturday.
The Palace said the condition of Filipinos in Jeddah was raised during the meeting.
Highlighting the importance of close cooperation, the SSWA and the Philippine Consulate General agreed to step up collaboration to help distressed OFWs for their eventual repatriation, Malacañang added.
“Undersecretary Arriola asked the assistance of SSWA to help less than 200 distressed Filipinos, particularly household workers, especially in fast-tracking their cases so that they can be repatriated,” the Palace said in a statement.
“As a response, Director-General Mohammad Ibrahim Jalal vowed to help the Philippine Consulate General, saying SSWA’s mandate is to solve labor cases in Saudi Arabia and to repatriate distressed workers. He made a commitment to tend every case of Filipino workers,” it added.
In November this year, the Philippine Consulate General in Jeddah rescued five distressed OFWs, three of whom were reportedly victims of sexual assault by their respective employers.
Under existing arrangements, recruitment agencies facilitate the papers of workers with labor disputes and make referrals to the SSWA to speed up the processing of cases.
Bandar Al-Zahrani, director of Anti-Begging and Care of Workers in Jeddah and supervisor of Workers’ Shelter in Makkah Region, has been tasked to oversee the cases of distressed Filipinos.
Malacañang said Borje stressed the important role of the SSWA in the timely repatriation of Filipino migrant workers.
Borje also lauded the long-standing partnership between the Philippine Consulate General in Jeddah and the SSWA.
“Undersecretary Borje expressed President Duterte’s gratitude to the Saudi Arabia officials for their commitment to help Filipinos facing problems in the kingdom,” Malacañang said.
Borje is on an assistance-to-nationals mission in the Middle East and North Africa to assess the Filipinos’ condition there.
As part of his three-nation tour, Borje on Friday visited Tunisia where he was able to seal an agreement to bolster its cooperation with the Philippines in addressing the plight of OFWs in Tunis.
Borje is set to visit Bahrain to complete his mission in the two regions. (PCOO/IAMIGO/CNS)