OFWs Have the Right to Hold On to Their Passports – Said Philippine Embassy in Riyadh

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia – The Labor Ministry of Saudi Arabia stressed that it is the sole right of foreign overseas workers to keep their passports and other official documents. In fact, Taysir Al-Mofraj, Labor Ministry spokesman reiterated that “Anybody violating these rules will face serious penalties.”

According to Arab News, keeping the passports of employees would not guarantee that workers would not escape. More so, any employer that would take away or hide passports from expats is in gross violation of the aforesaid labor laws in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi and Philippine Labor Laws in Check

In lieu with this, the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh also strengthened that claim and explained to all OFWs that under both the Philippine and Saudi laws; or specifically Council of Ministers Resolution No. 166 states that foreign workers in Saudi Arabia do have the right to keep in their possession their respective Philippines passports. There should be no qualms about it; as the passport should only be kept by its rightful owner or one whose name, image, and signature appear on it.

Unlawful Keeping of Passports by Saudi Employers Revealed

Employers in Saudi Arabia have been doing unlawful practices especially with forcefully keeping employees’ passports even when against the OFW’s free will. In response to this, Sultan Al-Harbi, Labor Office director in Jeddah, insisted that in any event that this injustice does happen – as labor laws are supposed to protect the rights of foreign workers – any expat is strongly urged to file a complaint against his employer.

The Domestic Workers Act (Article 6 and 7) protects both parties and is subject to rightful sanctions by the Labor Office.  Still, according to ILO, keeping or holding passports of foreign workers is similar to forcible work which is in clear violation of International Labor Organization (ILO) in their thrust on the Abolition of Forced Labor at which UAE is dubbed to be a signatory. More so, this is considerably a breach in trust which is an offense that carries with it fine of AED20, 000 and imprisonment of up to three years.

Further, according to Riyadh DFA, there is indeed no point in contesting the legalities associated to this issue because the Philippine passport is regarded to be a property of the Republic of the Philippines; thus, only the rightful bearer can keep it in his possession – no ifs and buts.