KUWAIT CITY, Jan 29: Around a thousand undocumented Filipino workers in Kuwait trooped to the Philippine Embassy on Monday in Al Siddique area on the first day of the amnesty to apply for travel documents and schedule their fingerprinting to have their status checked for the processing of their exit clearance.
The Ministry of Interior issued on Jan 23, 2018 a Ministerial Decision No. 64/2018 stipulating regulations for expatriates, whose residency applications were rejected or those with expired residency permits, to rectify their status or leave the country. The amnesty period will be from Jan 29, 2018 to Feb 22, 2018.
“According to Colonel Mishal Ayed Al Shinfa, the Director of the Department of Investigation Affairs and Department of Follow- Up Management of Offenders at the Ministry of Interior, aside from overstaying and undocumented expats, the amnesty also covers those who have absconding cases and those who are in jail due to expired visas and residence violations,” disclosed Philippine Charge d’ Affaires Noordin Pendosina Lomondot to the Arab Times.
Lomondot who recently arrived in Kuwait was part of the Philippine Rapid Response Team that helped thousands of undocumented Filipinos in Saudi Arabia go home during the amnesty in the Kingdom. He cited that there are around 10,000 undocumented Filipino workers in Kuwait based on the records of the Ministry of Interior.
Most of the undocumented Filipinos worked as household service workers who ran away from their employers due to various forms of abuses such as physical, sexual or verbal abuse, non-payment of salary and overwork.
Some of the undocumented Filipinos braved the cold morning on Monday and queued as early as 4:00 am outside the embassy, just to make sure that they get to register on the first day as it is on a ‘firstcome- first-served’ basis. “My friends and I woke up so early today. We’re all excited to go home. Thanks to the Kuwaiti government for the amnesty,” stated Weesha who was able to get inside the embassy at 9:00 am.
Virginia, another undocumented for 18 years in Kuwait expressed mixed emotions as she lined up outside the embassy. “I feel so happy and at the same time sad because Kuwait has been my second home for the past 18 years. It was not easy to live with no papers. You’re always on the lookout if you see police authorities but thank God, I survived and was able to work for 18 years and it’s time for me to go home now and be with my family,” she pointed out.
Lomondot announced that the Philippine government will provide free tickets to all undocumented Filipinos in Kuwait who will go home under the Kuwait amnesty program. “We have already drafted a request to the Department of Foreign Affairs particularly to the Office of Undersecretary for Migrant Workers to provide funding for repatriation tickets. We have already coordinated with the Philippine Airlines and Kuwait Airways because these are the airlines with direct flights to the Philippines,” he stated.
To all those who want to avail the amnesty, they have to go to the embassy and bring with them six passport size photos with blue background, photocopy of their passport, Civil ID or any valid ID. The embassy has posted nine steps in the Amnesty Application Flow:
Step 1: Registration/Assessment
Step 2: Fill up application form. Submit the following documents: passport copy, Civil ID copy and 6 pieces passport size pictures
Step 3: Verification
Step 4: Verification Results – if applicant is qualified he/she will proceed to Step 5
Step 5: Fingerprinting
Step 6: Embassy will notify applicants of fingerprinting result and if he/she is qualified for amnesty
Step 7: Immigration stamping/ Exit permit
Step 8: Flight Scheduling
Step 9: Repatriation
For any query, they may call the embassy amnesty hotline 65002612 “According to Col Al Shinfa, all those who have their passport and don’t have any absconding case, they can buy their air ticket and go straight to the airport and fly home. They will put two lines at the airport exclusive for amnesty seekers only,” informed Lomondot as he thanked Col Al Shinfa and the Kuwait government for their assistance.
The Philippine Embassy urges all undocumented Filipinos in Kuwait to avail the amnesty and go home without paying any penalty while those who want to stay may correct their residence status by paying the penalty and doing the necessary residence visa procedures. “We hope all the 10,000 undocumented Filipinos will avail the amnesty though our target will be 7,000 as some may still opt to stay,” stated Lomondot.
The amnesty period for violators of residency law to leave the country from any port of the country without paying the relevant fines started on Jan 29 and will continue until Feb 22. In a press release issued by Ministry of Interior, Director General of General Department of Residency Affairs Major General Talal Ibrahim Marafie urged residents, who are in violation of the residency law, to take advantage of the humanitarian gesture made by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior Lieutenant General Sheikh Khalid Al-Jarrah Al-Sabah who issued Ministerial Decision No. 64/2018 for granting this amnesty period.
He explained that residency law violators who are allowed to leave during this amnesty period without paying fines are:
1. Individuals whose normal or temporary residence permits expired before Jan 24, 2018
2. Individuals who entered the country on visit, residence, tourist, multiple- entry or transit visas but the period of their stay in the country expired before Jan 24, 2018
3. Individuals whose passports expired before Jan 24, 2018 and have valid residency but wish to leave the country
4. Individuals who were reported as absconders before Jan 24, 2018 regardless of the type of residency they hold
5. Workers of the civil or domestic labor sector who were reported as absentees after Jan 4, 2016
Parents of newborns who were granted residency under them must visit the respective residency affairs department based on the address of their residence in Kuwait in order to settle the status of their newborns within this amnesty period.
Major General Talal Marafie called on the violators of residency law to either amend their legal status quickly by obtaining a valid residence permit after paying the relevant fines or leave the country during the period stipulated by the ministerial decision.
He stressed that those who rectify their legal status and continue to stay in Kuwait shall enjoy health, educational and other services provided by the government. Major General Talal Marafie affirmed that violators who leave the country voluntarily during this amnesty period can return on new procedures, adding those who are caught after the amnesty period will be deported and will not be allowed to return to Kuwait again. He affirmed that Ministry of Interior is serious in tracking down violators and will apply law on them indiscriminately.
Major General Talal Marafie urged the sponsors of violating residents to handover the passports of the violators so that the latter can benefit from amnesty period and leave the country unless they are wanted by law for any other cases. He indicated about an integrated plan based on instructions of the Supreme Command of Ministry of Interior to eliminate this phenomenon.
Major General Talal Marafie revealed that the total number of individuals who can benefit from the decision is 15,436. He called on all concerned embassies and consulates to urge their nationals who are in violation of the residency law to take advantage of the ministerial decision.
Controls and criteria
Meanwhile, Al-Anba daily reported that Major General Talal Marafie issued Circular No. 28/2018, which sets the controls and criteria for implementing the decision. The circular aims at proper interpretation of the resolution, clarification of the vision and development of the working mechanism. It has several points related to the violators and ways to benefit from the decision.
As per the circular, each immigration department shall assign a number of efficient employees to receive violators and complete the necessary procedures to address the General Department of Criminal Evidences so that regular work progress would not be affected.
Residency shall be granted to the violators of residency law if they are willing to obtain it and meet the necessary conditions.
Violators shall be asked to pay the relevant fines regardless of the duration of the violation and the nationality of the violators (except holders of travel documents).
The date of commencement of the violation shall take into account the normal and temporary residence permits and work permits that expired before Jan 24, 2018.
Those who entered the country on work permits or visit visas on or before Jan 23, 2018 must leave the country before Feb 22, 2018.
Those who entered the country on work permits or visit visas and whose residency period expired on or before Jan 23, 2018 shall be granted temporary residence but they must leave the country before Feb 22, 2018 unless they obtain a residence permit in accordance with the conditions prescribed.
Those who are reported as wanted by law for absconding from their work are allowed to leave the country directly from any port within the period specified in the Ministerial Decision No. 64/2018 irrespective of whether their residency is under Article 18 or 20, provided that they were reported as absconding before Jan 24, 2018.
Normal procedures will be applied on holders of regular and temporary residence permits and work permits that expired on or after Jan 24, 2018, as the provisions of the resolution do not apply to them. Those who lost their passports and received new passports or travel documents shall fill the relevant form for reporting the loss of passport. The form shall be stamped by the concerned employee of the General Department of Residence Affairs Investigations.
The following procedures shall apply:- a) If the expiry date of the residence permit or visa is before Feb 24, 2018, it shall be matched with his/her personal file in the Immigration Department or the original civil card, if any.
The unified number shall be written in the last page of the passport or travel document and stamped by the department so that they can leave the country without the need for transferring data on passport. b) If it is not possible to obtain the data of the violator or if there is no data at all, a form shall be provided to the applicant to check with the Criminal Investigations Department.
In this case, the following procedures shall apply in the next visit of the violator:- n If the residence permit or visa of the violator is found, the abovementioned procedure (a) shall apply.
■ If no data is found, a database shall be created and the violator shall be granted temporary residence in computer only without the unified number on the last page of the passport or travel document. The passport shall be stamped by the Immigration Department and the violator shall be asked to leave the country, but change in status shall not be allowed.
■ In case the data of the person is present in the security control system and matches with the data received from the General Department of Criminal Evidences but there is a difference in the data in the new passport or travel document, the name and other details shall be amended according to the new passport or travel document.
■ If there is an arrest warrant against the violator for any reason other than violation of residency law, he/she shall be immediately arrested and referred to the concerned authority for taking necessary legal action.
Meanwhile, there are currently 300,000 overseas jobs available in China for the Filipino workers, as per the announcement made by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Silvestre Bello on Jan 28, 2018.
It can be recalled that the Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte said on Friday, Jan 26, that he will seek help of China to open its doors for the Filipinos if the maltreatment to the Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in Kuwait continues.
China is in need of English teachers, musicians, nurses, cooks, household service workers, and caregivers, according to a CNN report.
The bilateral agreement, which will be signed by the two countries next month, will cover the salaries, working hours, benefits, and protection of the rights of Filipino workers to prevent abuses committed against the OFWs. Bello advised the job-seekers to only apply at the agencies accredited by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).
By Michelle Fe Santiago Arab Times Staff and Agencies