By Roy Mabasa
Since February 2020, a total of 6,752 Filipinos have been repatriated from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Department of Foreign Affairs said on Wednesday.
The DFA made this disclosure amid reports that around 23,000 more Filipinos facing bleak future in the Kingdom are seeking repatriation following the outbreak of the COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) pandemic.
According to government estimates, there are approximately 700,000 overseas Filipino workers in Saudi Arabia, the biggest in the Middle East region.
The DFA has been facing a huge backlog in the repatriation of nationals abroad mainly due to the existing travel restrictions being implemented in many countries, including Saudi Arabia and the Philippines, in an effort to contain the spread of the disease.
Last week, the Philippine government appealed to the Saudi authorities to allow the return of some 353 remains of Filipinos, including the 107 who died due to COVID-19 infection.
Philippine Ambassador to Riyadh Adnan Alonto said the months of lockdown due to the pandemic has created a huge backlog in the number of remains of Filipinos, the majority of them died of natural causes.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. earlier said arrangements are being made for cargo flights to repatriate the remains but no dates have been given, as of this writing.
As of June 22, 2020, the Philippine government, through the DFA, has repatriated a total of nearly 55,000 Filipinos from all over the world – 30,645 sea-based and 24,091 land-based workers.
“These are DFA facilitated repatriations. There are OFWs who return without DFA assistance but go through the same procedures as everyone arriving for in the Philippines,” DFA Assistant Secretary Eduardo Meñez said in a statement.