The Philippine government may seek an extension of the 90-day amnesty period for illegal workers in Saudi Arabia, it was reported on Tuesday.
Local media said the extension to the amnesty, which ends July 9, would allow the Department of Foreign Affairs more time to work for the repatriation of hundreds of undocumented Filipino workers.
In a press briefing, Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said the move was also aimed at preventing the arrest of undocumented Filipinos in the Gulf kingdom, estimated at 20,000.
The announcement comes as families of Filipino illegals in Jeddah have set up camps outside the Foreign Office to protest the government's slow-paced response to the plight of stranded workers.
“We will endeavour to do what we can before the 90-day extension and if it looks like we are not able to accomplish all that we need to do, we will seek an extension to the extension,” Del Rosario said in comments published in local media.
The crackdown against illegal workers in Saudi Arabia started on March 28.
Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah on April 6 ordered a three-month delay to a crackdown on illegal migrant workers that has led to thousands of deportations.
Violations of visa laws outlined by the Ministry of Interior include forging documents and employers sheltering those who overstay visas. Companies could be hit with fines of up to SR30,000 ($8,000) per illegal worker and be named in the press.
The announcement comes on the back of a series of country-wide raids that have sought to root out expats working in the oil-rich nation illegally. Out of Saudi Arabia’s population of close to 30m, close to 10m are expats, primarily from other Arab countries and South Asia.
The policy is the latest move in an apparent drive to bolster employment among Saudi citizens, where the jobless rate currently stands at more than 12 percent.
The governments of Yemen and India's state of Kerala have expressed concern about a sudden influx of returning workers because of the Saudi crackdown.