For Filipino bishop, migrant workers in Saudi Arabia and Iran should be repatriated
Manila (AsiaNews/CBCP) - Manila must repatriate Filipino workers from Saudi Arabia and Iran because of the recent deterioration of relations between the two Muslim countries, said Mgr Ruperto Santos, bishop of Balanga and chairman of the Bishops’ Commission on Migrants and Itinerant People, in an appeal to the government of President Benigno Aquino.
According to the prelate, the escalation of tensions following the execution of Shia leader Nimr al-Nimr and the subsequent attack on the Saudi embassy in Tehran could jeopardise the safety of Filipinos and their families.
“We must be ready to welcome back our OFW*, and provide them with jobs here, and offer assistance to their families,” Santos said.
The bishop said he was very concerned by the situation in the Middle East, which has been that more complicated by clashes within Islam. In view of this, he called on all the faithful to pray for peace and for the safety of Filipinos.
The Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila said it was monitoring the situation and that it was prepared to use everything at its disposal to ensure the safety of Filipinos living in Middle East nations.
In a related case, Mgr Santos expressed joy and satisfaction following Qatar’s decision to pardon ten Filipinos held in its prisons. The bishop thanked Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani for his "benevolent actions".
“On this Jubilee of Mercy we experienced acts of mercy and compassion. Lives have been spared from punishment. Lives have been saved,” Bishop Santos said.
“Now from the pardon of Qatar we have lessons to learn: show gratitude through greater dedication to works and greater respect for the laws and customs of those countries,” he added.
Manila has not yet released the identities of the ten Filipino workers who were pardoned, nor made public the nature of the charges for which they were convicted.
The emir of Qatar usually issues pardons twice a year: during Ramadan and at the end of the yea. In July 2015, during the Muslim holy month, 12 other Filipinos were pardoned.
About 10 million Filipinos work abroad, including around 2.2 million in Saudi Arabia.
Seventy-nine of these are on death row in various countries, 41 in Malaysia and 27 in Saudi Arabia, said Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose.
On 30 December, a Filipino tiler was beheaded in Saudi Arabia because his family could not pay "blood money".
* OFW refers to Overseas Filipino workers