IN what could be considered one of the largest repatriations it has carried out in a single day, the Department of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday sent home more than 600 overseas Filipino workers who availed themselves of the amnesty program of the Kuwaiti government.
The DFA said the repatriation of 610 Filipino workers being flown out of Kuwait was the biggest number to be flown home since it began its repatriation efforts nine days ago.
The latest batch brought to 1,796 the total number of Filipino workers who have asked to be repatriated after availing themselves of an almost month-long amnesty program declared by the Kuwaiti government.
“If I am not mistaken, our repatriation today could be among the largest if not the largest to be carried out in a single day in a non-conflict situation,” Ambassador Renato Villa said.
The envoy, who was involved in numerous repatriation efforts in the Middle East, said the other large-scale repatriation that he could think of was the repatriation of around 700 Filipinos from conflict-torn Libya in 2014.
Villa said 430 passengers from Kuwait were sent home via the mercy flight sent by Cebu Pacific while the remaining 180 took the Philippine Airlines flight.
Ceb Corporate Communications director Charo Logarta-Lagamon said the latest group of returning OFWs were set to arrive at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport on board Cebu Pacific flight 5J021 at 6:40 p.m. yesterday.
The flight was a special charter because Ceb does not fly to Kuwait. All passengers were free of charge in response to government’s call of humanitarian mission.
“Among those flying home are 68 mothers and children and 12 wards rescued by the Embassy,” Villa said.
The Embassy said it has processed 3,801 travel documents for workers since the amnesty period began. It expects more than 2,000 more to be repatriated in the next few days.
AMNESTY PROGRAM FOR UNDOCUMENTED FILIPINO WORKERS EXTENDED
KUWAIT on Tuesday announced it is extending its amnesty for another two months to allow overstaying Filipino workers to avail of the program.
The Kuwaiti government made the announcement following the Philippines’ request for an extension to allow it to accommodate more workers who want to go home.
In his report to Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, Villa said the amnesty program was extended until April 22.
The order for the extension of the three-week amnesty that was supposed to end on Thursday was signed on Tuesday by Kuwait Interior Minister Sheikh Khalid Al-Jarrah Al-Sabah.
The decision came less than a week after Cayetano formally conveyed the extension request to Kuwaiti Ambassador Mousaed Al-Thwaikh in Manila.
Cayetano said the extension is to allow the Embassy to accommodate more of the 10,800 Filipinos believed to have overstayed their visas or ran away from their employers.
Only close to 3,000 OFWs applied for the amnesty program.
185 DEATHS FOR LAST TWO YEARS
SENATORS said the ban on the deployment of OFWs to Kuwait should continue unless the government can assure their safety.
During the hearing of the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development chaired by Sen. Joel Villanueva, it was revealed that 185 OFWs died in Kuwait for the last two years.
Villanueva said the government must monitor closely the OFWs around the world.
“Working abroad should be a matter of choice and not out of
desperation or necessity. Kung tatanungin natin ang ating mga kababayan, sigurado akong mas gugustuhin nilang manatili sa bansa at makasama ang kanilang pamilya basta may disenteng trabaho at sapat na kita dito,” said Sen. Sonny Angara, vice chairman of the Senate Labor Committee.
With Willy Balasa, Camille Balagtas and Marlon Purificacion