Monday, January 3, 2011

Riyadh jail frees OFW detained for smuggling attempt

A homebound overseas Filipino worker (OFW), who had been detained in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia after airport authorities found 150 kilos of scrap bronze in his baggage, has been released, an OFW advocacy group reported.

In a statement, Migrante-Middle East said OFW Vicente (not his real name) was released from Azizia prison in Riyadh on January 1 after his employer decided not to file any complaints against him.

Migrante regional coordinator John Leonard Monterona said the OFW’s brother, who works for the same company, had said that Vicente was escorted on the same day by local police to the airport for his repatriation.

The Philippine Embassy in Riyadh likewise confirmed the OFW’s release and said that it was currently working to confirm the OFW’s flight details.

“[Embassy representatives] were informed by authorities that the case against [the OFW] was withdrawn by his company, since the scrap metal was already returned to the company," said Embassy Third Secretary and Vice Consul Roussel Reyes in a statement.

The company owner has also signed a tanazul (letter of forgiveness) and has issued an exit visa for the OFW, which means he may now be repatriated, Reyes said.

The Migrante officer reminded OFWs in Saudi Arabia and in other Middle East countries to take care not to violate the local laws, customs and prohibitions imposed by the host government.

According to Migrante, Vicente was apprehended as he was about to leave Riyadh through the King Khalid International Airport on December 11, after airport authorities found the scrap metal in his baggage.

Vicente, 30, and a native of Jaen in Nueva Ecija, worked as a furnace operator for a Riyadh-based molding shop. After completing his two-year contract, he resigned from his work and on December 11, was scheduled to return home to the Philippines, when airport authorities nabbed him.

In the past seven years, Saudi Arabia remained the top destination for OFWs. Some 5.7 million Filipinos were deployed to the oil-rich country from 2003 to 2009, based on records from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration.

The majority of these workers are nurses, domestic helpers, caregivers and workers in the IT section.

In 2009, Filipinos from Saudi Arabia sent home some $1.4 billion, the third-highest amount of remittances sent home, next only to that sent by Filipinos in the United States and Canada. —DM/KBK, GMANews.TV

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