KUWAIT CITY, Sept 5: A group, comprising 97 Filipina household workers who have spent months of waiting while being sheltered at the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) FWRC or Filipino Workers Resource Center at the Philippine Embassy in Jabriya were finally repatriated early Sunday back to their home country.
Philippine Ambassador to Kuwait, HE Shulan O Primavera went to the POLO premises around 2:30 a.m. Sunday and met with the deportees prior to their departure to the airport. In words of advice, he told the group that their experience should serve as a lesson for them to be circumspect in their search for overseas jobs in the future.
He also lauded the POLO headed by Labor Attache Atty Vivo Vidal and Asst Labatt Ofelia C. Hudson and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration’s Welfare Officer Yolanda Penaranda and members of their staff for their efforts in putting the whole process together, as well as the APO or Alpha Phi Omega — Kuwait Chapter members who assisted in the early dawn operation loading the deportees’ luggage and personal belongings on a lorry, likewise Western Union for providing the workers’ shirts.
The deportees who were sent home are among two hundred or more Filipina household workers who ran away from their employers for a variety of reasons, ranging from: maltreatment, non-payment of salaries, physical and sexual abuse, overworked, no rest days, etc, and sought shelter at the Philippine Embassy.
While most of the run-away cases have been resolved through conciliation arranged by POLO officials between maids and their employers, others needed to be resolved in the courts, thus the delay in repatriating those who want to be sent home, according to an official.
According to an embassy press release explaining the deportation process, runaways or abscondees in Kuwait who run to the Filipino Workers Resources Center (FWRC) shelter at the Philippine Embassy must be surrendered to the local police to facilitate their deportation. The local police would then summon the employer who would be required to surrender the worker’s passport, cancel the worker’s visa and procure and submit a plane ticket for the worker.
Under the said procedure, the waiting period before detained runaways are deported takes three or more months, while in the case of those whose employers or sponsors refuse to cooperate, it would take several months to more than one year before they can be sent home.
In the case of the group of 97, the normal requirements were waived in representations made by the Philippine Labor Office with Kuwait Immigration and, as an added bonus, the Kuwait government agreed to foot the repatriation bill as a humanitarian gesture taking into consideration the workers’ plights, many of whom have been staying at the FWRC shelter between three to eight months with no means of income.
The said arrangement was reportedly made possible with the cooperation of the Office of the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor Mohammad Al Khandary and the Office of Gen Abdullah Al Ali of the Department of Immigration at Kuwait’s Interior Ministry.
“I thank God and those who made our return home possible, I would finally be with my family and loved ones whom I dearly missed all this time” says one deportee who did not give her name.
According to Atty Vidal, similar arrangements are being made with Kuwait Immigration for another batch, probably about the same number as these group, that could be repatriated possibly within this month.
The 97 OFWs are expected to arrive in Manila early Monday morning onboard Gulf Air flight GF-516 and will be met by representatives from the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) who will arrange the workers’ transportation to their respective hometowns after undergoing debriefing and counseling.
By: Boie Conrad Dublin