Three Filipino workers were detained by Riyadh police yesterday for protesting outside the Philippine Embassy. Later they were released.

The three workers were among a group of about 150 workers who gathered in front of the Philippine Embassy yesterday morning to protest against the alleged inability of the Filipino diplomatic missions to help illegal workers go home.

“The police responsible for ensuring security at the Diplomatic Quarter in Riyadh picked up a few of the workers and later released them,” Philippine Ambassador Ezzedin Tago told Arab News here yesterday. “There is no justification to organize any protest or demonstration in front of the embassy when we are doing our best to help solve all problems,” he said.

“I don’t know why the community organizations decided to hold protests,” said Tago, adding that all Filipino community organizations, including Migrante, are illegal in Saudi Arabia. He said workers from other countries did not protest outside their embassies at the Diplomatic Quarter. He said over 7,500 Filipino workers have so far registered for repatriation at the embassy and the Jeddah-based consulate.

A statement released by Filipino migrants rights group Migrante, however, gave a different version of the story. Migrante, which identified those arrested as Lyndon Salonga, Juan Carlos and Jon Jon de Vera, said the protest was “peaceful.” It said “they were holding their peaceful protest outside the Philippine Embassy, when a Riyadh POLO case officer arrived with the Saudi police.”

Migrante said that the protest in Riyadh was an offshoot of the situation in Jeddah, where some 1,000 Filipinos have been camping out since April 11. Workers have been gathering in Jeddah since the Saudi government ordered a crackdown on undocumented foreign workers, which started on March 28. Thousands of workers have already been deported.

Migrante, which is at the forefront of assisting thousands of stranded Filipino workers in Saudi Arabia, said it would ask the Philippine government to prioritize the repatriation of women, children, the sick and elderly.

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