KUWAIT CITY, July 19: More than 23,000 Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in Kuwait have been displaced as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Some of them were terminated while others are on “no work, no pay status,” disclosed Philippine Charge d’Affaires to Kuwait Charles Hermosura during his interview on TFC News Live. Hermosura cited that the number of displaced OFWs was based on the number of financial aid applications received by the Philippine Overseas Labour Office (POLO) in Kuwait of which 5,011 have already received the cash aid of US$200 from the Department of Labor and Employment.
Aside from the financial aid, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) in Kuwait has also distributed relief goods to thousands of displaced Filipinos especially during the lockdown.
There are around 240,000 OFWs in Kuwait, 65 per cent of which are domestic workers while 35 per cent are professionals, skilled and semi-skilled workers that are mostly affected by the pandemic. Hermosura pointed out that the repatriation of displaced OFWs continues via Kuwait Airways chartered flights.
Some companies shouldered the air tickets of their workers while other workers had to buy their own tickets as their companies refused to take responsibility of their repatriation back home.
Some of the displaced workers who would like to go home but have no money for their air tickets are waiting for the Philippine government’s assistance to provide a free chartered flight. “We still don’t have any official instruction with regard to the mercy fl ight but we will definitely announce and let the Filipino community know if there is one,” clarified Hermosura.
In line with the continuous repatriation, around 315 stranded OFWs were repatriated on Wednesday via a Kuwait Airways chartered fl ight organized by Al Tayer Travels in coordination with the Philippine Embassy that helped in securing a flight clearance from the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP). “We would like to thank the Philippine Embassy for helping facilitate the flight clearance and we hope to organise more chartered flights to help bring home stranded Filipinos back to the Philippines,” stated Al Tayer Travels Chairman Fahad Al Baker.
Al Tayer Travels also gave 10 free seats to distressed OFWs endorsed by the Embassy as well as free protective kits with face shields, masks, gloves and hand sanitizers to all passengers on board the chartered flight. Philippine Vice Consul Adrian Baccay who was also at the airport to see of the repatriates advised all those who want to go home to contact their employers or sponsors as it has been stated in the work contract that it’s the sponsor’s responsibility to buy the tickets once their contracts ended.
“Most of the tickets of those who were repatriated recently where shouldered by their companies so contact your company and they will in turn coordinate with the travel agencies that are organizing chartered flights,” explained Baccay.
To date, more than 4,000 OFWs have been repatriated to the Philippines since March.
Meanwhile, as Kuwait continues with its fight against COVID-19, some Filipinos were not spared from the pandemic. Thirty-one Filipinos in Kuwait have died due to COVID-19 and among the fatalities were four healthcare workers. Hermosura disclosed that based on the report received by the embassy some 300 Filipinos contracted the virus but around 260 have already recovered.
Meanwhile, the Philippine Embassy and the POLO-OWWA will open their doors on Sunday to serve Filipino nationals after shutting down temporarily on July 2, 2020 when two staff were tested positive of COVID-19. In accordance with the protocols of the World Health Organization and the Kuwait Ministry of Health, people in close contact with a COVID-19 positive have to undergo a 14-day quarantine.
“The POLO will also resume with its distribution of the DOLE-AKAP cas assistance to all qualified OFWs,” informed Hermosura. Filipinos who want to avail passport renewal and extension as well as other consular services must book their appointment online. The Philippine Embassy advises all Filipinos to check the embassy’s offi- cial Facebook page for updates: www. facebook.com/PHinKuwait or they may call the Consular (Passport) Section Hotlines: 65184433 or 69902188; ATNU Hotline: 65002612; and POLO-OWWA Hotline: 94039063.
By Michelle Fe Santiago Arab Times Staff