The Philippines will ask its private airlines to evacuate its nationals from Kuwait within 72 hours after the discovery of a Filipino migrant worker dead in a freezer, the latest in what Manila calls a pattern of abuse in the Gulf state.
An emotional President Rodrigo Duterte live on television showed graphic photos of the body of a Filipina found in the freezer of an abandoned apartment in Kuwait and made a plea to Gulf states to treat his countrymen with dignity. “I implore you, I am making a plea to all Arabs, the Filipino is no slave to anyone, anywhere and everywhere,’ Duterte said. “Do not give us back a battered worker or a mutilated corpse.”
The tough-talking leader said his suspension on sending workers to Kuwait, announced in January after a series of deaths of Filipino workers, would remain indefinitely.
He warned of “drastic measures” to prevent further loss of lives. He did not say what that would be. “What are you doing to my countrymen? And if I were to do it to your citizens here, would you be happy?,” he asked.
The Kuwait government could not immediately be reached for comment. Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Al-Jarallah was last month quoted by Kuwait’s state news agency KUNA as saying that legal proceedings had been taken in the cases of four domestic workers mentioned by the president.
More than 250,000 Filipinos work in Kuwait, the Philippine foreign ministry estimates, most of them as domestic helpers. There are also large numbers in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. “Those who want to be repatriated, with or without money I will ask PAL (Philippine Airlines) and Cebu Pacific to provide the transportation,” Duterte said. “I want them out of the country, those who want to go out, in 72 hours. We will count our lives by the hours because apparently every hour there is suffering and agony,” Duterte said.
Duterte also ordered law enforcers to arrest the recruiters of Filipino workers who died in Kuwait. He has repeatedly expressed anger about alleged abuse in Kuwait, where he said low-paid Filipinos were made to endure rape and starvation. More than 2.3 million Filipinos are documented as working abroad. Collectively they remit more than $2 billion of their income back to the Philippines every month, money that fuels consumer spending in one of the world’s fastest-growing economies.
Family seeks justice
Members of the family of Joanna Daniela Demafelis, a Filipino household worker whose body was found in a freezer in an apartment in Shaab recently, asked for help from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) in their bid to seek justice for their loved one.
ABS-CBN News quoted the mother of Joanna — Eva Demafelis — as saying: “I am appealing for government’s help in seeking justice for my daughter’s death.” It has been reported that Joanna arrived in Kuwait in 2014 and her last contact with the family was between 2016 and 2017. According to the report, the results of preliminary investigations indicate Joanna might have been tortured and strangled while the exact date of death has yet to be determined.
the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) in the Philippines on Friday confirmed the return of 800 undocumented Filipino workers from Kuwait.
This came after Duterte instructed Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III to arrange the repatriation of Filipinos who want to come home within 72 hours. DFA Undersecretary Sarah Lou Arriola said the government has already booked tickets for these Filipinos, mostly household service workers, who will be repatriated in batches from Feb 11-13, 2018. Out of the 260,000 Filipinos in Kuwait; 170,000 are household service workers. A total of 10,800 are “overstaying violators,” Arriola added.
Airline unveils plan
In a related development, globalnation. inquirer.net has reported that Cebu Pacific unveiled its plan to dispatch a special flight to Kuwait for Filipino workers who want to return home. In a press statement, the airline announced, “Cebu Pacific will be mounting a special flight to Kuwait to assist our compatriots who wish to be repatriated. “We are coordinating with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Philippine Embassy in Kuwait on the airlift details and other travel arrangements. We will provide further information once these are finalized.”
Senators voice support
Also, some senators voiced support for the deployment ban. Emmanuel Joel Villanueva — who currently heads the Senate committee on labor, employment and human resources development — condemned the killing of Joanna. “We strongly condemn the brutal killing of another Filipina whose body was discovered in a freezer where it may have been kept for over a year. How many more are being brutalized?” Villanueva said in a statement.
“We are outraged by this latest horrible crime against our overseas Filipino workers,” he added. “We support the President’s call to continuously ban the deployment of OFWs to Kuwait. Our primary concern should be the lives and safety of our workers. We should not wait for another OFW to die for us to act on this,” Villanueva said.
Senator Cynthia Villar, who also advocates the protection of OFWs and their rights, said it is only fitting to halt the deployment of Filipinos to “countries where they will only be abused.” In a radio interview Saturday, Villar said she “agrees” with the President in imploring Kuwaiti government to act on the deaths of Filipina domestic workers in the hands of their employers. She believes that there is no need to work abroad since “many opportunities await” Filipino workers in the Philippines.
In addition, some recruitment agencies also expressed support for the ban. In a press statement, the Philippine Association of Agencies for Kuwait (PHILAAK) said, “Although we are saddened by its possible impact, we agree with the decision of President Rodrigo Duterte to suspend indefinitely the deployment of OFWs to Kuwait and repatriate distressed OFWs” in the Gulf state.
The association confirmed it is now coordinating with OWWA regarding the ban. It is also in the process of formulating a set of policy and other recommendations so that the government will have additional options on how to “save” OFWs from slavery and human trafficking.
The association announced it is drawing up recommendations for a more effective delivery of services to OFWs, not just in Kuwait but the entire world. “We will present these recommendations to Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III soon so we can give him our best advice for the welfare of OFWs,” says the PHILAAK statement signed by its president Anada Lalic-Areneta, and Chairperson Thelma Uanang. — news.mb.com.ph, news.abs-cbn. com, globalnation.inquirer.net and gmanetwork. com
SOURCE : ARABTIMES