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Domestic helper missing for 18 months, family lost all contact

Ronalyn Lagawan

KUWAIT: Filipina domestic worker Ronalyn Yonting Lagawan has been missing since February 2017. The Philippine Embassy in Kuwait recently issued a statement seeking information about her whereabouts, along with a photo, and asking that anyone with information to contact the embassy directly.

“We confirmed that Ronalyn Lagawan has been missing for 18 months now. We don’t know her whereabouts but we have already coordinated with the local authorities to help us find Ronalyn,” said a representative from the embassy’s assistance to nationals unit who spoke to Kuwait Times on the condition of anonymity. “We hope that she is okay and that maybe she is just afraid to surface or call her relatives. We appeal to anyone who may have knowledge of her whereabouts to directly communicate with us at the embassy because her family is worried.”

According to the Philippine Embassy source, Ronalyn absconded from her employer in February 2017 and since then has failed to communicate with her relatives back in Manila. “She absconded in February 2017 and never called her family since then. So we decided to launch a social media appeal for Ronalyn to find her,” he said.

There have been numerous incidences of human trafficking in Kuwait and domestic helpers who abscond are often trapped into prostitution rings or other illicit activities. Often they are held against their will or are living illegally, and therefore unable or unwilling to get in touch with the authorities. Often criminals may attempt to lure domestic helpers with promises of better jobs and better pay or by befriending them and encouraging them to run away from their sponsors.

According to Human Rights Watch, Kuwait has more than 660,000 domestic workers in a population of more than 4 million. The group has documented cases of abuse of domestic helpers, including confiscation of passports, forcing them to work excessively for hours without rest or a weekly day off, confining them to employers’ homes, verbally abusing them and in some cases, physically and sexually assaulting them. Furthermore, suicides and deaths of domestic workers are reported every year in Kuwait.

Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Ronalyn should contact local police or the embassy hotline at 65002612.

By Ben Garcia

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