The Philippine Overseas Labour Office in Riyadh (POLO-Riyadh) claims it has been forced to relocated from the capital’s Diplomatic Quarter due to violence during protests over the kingdom’s amnesty for illegal workers.
The Philippine Embassy has not officially given a reason for the office’s move to the West Umul Hamam District but Arab News said a source said it was related to “untoward incidents” during last year’s crackdown on illegal foreign workers.
Saudi Arabia’s amnesty on illegal workers saw about 1 million leave the country between April and November. Following the deadline, authorities carried out mass raids to find remaining illegal residents, most of whom did not have the necessary identification documents to return home.
Possibly thousands were detained in detention centres before being exported and the crackdown led to several protests.
At least three people died during the violence, including an Ethiopian man who was shot by police.
Filipinos make up a significant proportion of the kingdom’s 10 million expatriates and they mostly work in low-paid roles such as cleaners and maids.
Arab News said an incident broke out at the POLO-Riyadh office when a group of undocumented Filipinos began a sit-in in protest for a lack of help.
“They were afraid about their illegal status and sought help but nobody would attend to them. Violence followed. They eventually went to the embassy and camped out inside its premises,” a source reportedly said.
Embassy officials called the police when they could not get the workers to leave the building.
There also were several complaints by other residents inside the Diplomatic Quarter about the violence, he said.