KUWAIT: The Philippine Embassy in Kuwait repatriated 143 runaway housemaids to Manila on Tuesday evening through Kuwait government’s Assisted Voluntary Repatriation Program (AVRP). With this scheme, repatriated workers are sent straight to the airport without passing through the deportation center (Talha). The repatriated workers were temporarily housed at the embassy’s shelter in Hateen for various reasons ranging from maltreatment to sexual and verbal abuse. Around 300 more remain at the two embassy shelters in Faiha and Hateen awaiting repatriation. The repatriated workers are the biggest batch of returnees so far this year.
“Thank God, I can go back to my family in one piece,” Mila, a repatriated worker, told Kuwait Times. “I was verbally and physically abused by my female employer, but I had to stay at the embassy because the employer would not want to cooperate and filed a case against me,” she added. Some of the housemaids expressed hope and great aspirations for the positive change of leadership in the Philippines after the presidential election on May 9.
“I hope the next president will pay due attention to our plight. I am now very happy because I am finally heading home after five months. But I still have a few friends left behind who couldn’t go home because of some cases filed against them by their employers. I hope the next president will look after their needs and if possible temporarily stop sending OFWs to the Middle East,” said Annalyn, another repatriated worker.
Ramon Nerida, head of the Assistance to Nationals Unit of the embassy, said the voluntary repatriation program helps decongest the shelter tremendously. “The good thing about AVRP is that we were able to facilitate fingerprinting in the comfort of the embassy unlike the normal repatriation procedure where housemaids are asked to present themselves in the immigration area, AVRP or not,” explained Nerida.
“The immigration authorities of Kuwait are extremely supportive of the program, and sometimes the only problems are the availability of flights back home because of periodic peak seasons,” Philippine Consul General Raul Dado said. He said all distressed OFWs who wish to go home can register their names at the embassy, whose basic policy focuses primarily on the safety and security of all Filipinos in Kuwait.
There are an estimated 200,000 Filipinos in Kuwait, more than one third of whom are engaged in domestic work. Around five to seven housemaids run away from their employers daily. According to Philippine Ambassador to Kuwait Renato Pedro Villa, the Philippines along with two other nations in Africa are the only remaining labor-exporting countries sending housemaids to Kuwait.
By Ben Garcia