11/05/2013, 00.00
SAUDI ARABIA - PHILIPPINES

Thousands of Filipino migrants treated "like animals" by Saudi authorities

More than 6,700 Filipino workers are detained across the country. The first who returned home tell stories of violence and abuses by police. On Sunday, Riyadh began its crackdown on undocumented immigrants. The step was supposed to begin last January but was suspended until now to allow workers to apply for amnesty.

Riyadh (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Filipino workers were treated like animals, locked in a cell for days with their feet shackled, this according to 30 Filipino migrants deported by the Saudi government after an after amnesty for undocumented foreigners ended on Sunday. The Filipino government estimates that at least 6,700 undocumented Filipino workers are held in prison in Jeddah and other cities of the Islamic country.

"They treated us like animals," said domestic helper Amor Roxas, 46, who talked about her ordeal after returning home with 29 other Filipinos. Saudi police rounded people up and placed them in a crowded cell for four days, she explained, without any possibility of outside assistance.

"Our feet were chained," added Yvonne Montefeo, 32. Saudi authorities, she said, shackled them fearing they might escape.

Migrante International, a support group for Filipino overseas workers, said 1,700 other workers are stranded in Jeddah waiting to be deported. An additional 5,000 are held in Riyadh, Al Khobar and Dammam.

The migrant rights organisation warned that Filipinos are in danger of violence and arbitrary detention by Saudi authorities.

Filipino Vice President Jejomar Binay, who is also presidential adviser on migrant affairs, last week appealed to the Saudi government to extend its deadline, noting that "thousands are still hoping to correct their employment status".

About 300,000 Filipinos work in Saudi Arabia, exploited and poorly paid, as well as victims of verbal and physical abuse because of their Christian faith.

Saudi Arabia's crackdown on undocumented workers began in January of this year, but was suspended for a few months to allow millions of migrant workers get a permit.

According to Filipino authorities, more than 4,000 Filipinos have been repatriated since the crackdown was announced.

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