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KUWAIT CITY, April 27: A total of 143 distressed Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in Kuwait were repatriated on Wednesday morning to the Philippines on board Cebu Pacific Air as part of the ongoing mass repatriation of overstaying and distressed Filipinos under the Assisted Voluntary Repatriation Program (AVRP) by the Kuwait government in cooperation with the Philippine Embassy in Kuwait.
The Assisted Voluntary Repatriation Program, a mutual agreement signed between the Kuwait government and the Philippine Embassy in Kuwait seeks to address the rising number of illegal expatriates in Kuwait.
The 143 repatriates under the AVRP did not have to pass through the ‘Talha’ or deportation centre but were transported from the embassy shelter in Hateen directly to the airport where they were accompanied by the embassy’s Assistance to Nationals Unit (ATNU) team led Consul General Raul Dado, ATNU Head Ramon Nerida and Kuwait Immigration officials who assisted them at the airport check-in counter. Most of the undocumented OFWs worked as Household Service Workers (HSWs) who left their employers after experiencing various forms of maltreatment such as physical, verbal or sexual abuse, non-payment of salaries, lack of food and overwork.
The repatriates thanked the Kuwait government and the Philippine Embassy for processing all their travel documents. “I’m so happy. Finally, I can go home and live a normal life. It’s so difficult if you have no visa, you’re always cowering in fear, no security and you get traumatized if you see police checking from a distance,” stated Jadelyn Manguigin, who escaped from her Kuwaiti employer after they refused to return her to the agency and attempted to sell her off to another employer.
Manguigin and the rest in the group expressed optimism that they can start a new life with their families in the Philippines. “To whoever gets elected as the new President of the Philippines, may he or she look into the welfare of OFWs. They should stop sending domestic workers to the Middle East who are most of the time subject to various abuses due to lack of labour law protection,” stated Lilibeth Bolanos. Some of the repatriates are still planning to go abroad while others want to stay in the Philippine once they are reunited with their family.
“If there would only be enough job opportunities in the Philippines, I will never work abroad again. It’s so difficult to be away from your family. I’m hoping and praying that I can find a new job when I get home,” pointed out Monisa Angcot, who experienced physical abuse from her employer prompting her to seek refuge at the Philippine Embassy shelter in Hateen where she stayed there for eight months. She did not file a case anymore against her employer as she just wants to go home and be with her family.
Currently, there are 130 wards staying temporarily at the Embassy shelter in Hateen and more than 200 wards at the Philippine Overseas Labour Office shelter in Faiha who are awaiting repatriation to the Philippines.
According to the embassy, out of the 180,000 Filipinos in Kuwait, around 8,000 are undocumented. The repatriation with no detention under the AVRP continues, hence, the Philippine Embassy urged all undocumented OFWs in Kuwait to take advantage of this and go home to the Philippines. “We are very happy that we’re able to repatriate 143 Filipinos today.
This is the biggest batch since the Assisted Voluntary Repatriation Program has been launched last year between the Kuwaiti government and the Philippine Embassy led by Ambassador Pedro O. Villa who talked to the Kuwaiti Immigration authorities and we would like to thank the Kuwaiti government for their utmost assistance. We are calling on all Filipinos who have no visa to come forward and we will help you go home,” stated Nerida.
All those who want to go home may enlist at the embassy shelter in Hateen for the processing of their travel documents and clearance. The embassy shelter is located at Block 2, Street 217, Villa 42 or they may call the embassy repatriation hotline +96598005115 for all the requirements under the AVRP.
By Michelle Fe Santiago Arab Times Staff