DFA senior official arrives in Kuwait for talks

Maxxy Santiago, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 30 2018 12:59 AM | Updated as of Mar 30 2018 01:19 AM

KUWAIT CITY—A Philippine delegation led by a senior foreign affairs official arrived here Thursday to meet with Filipino workers and Kuwaiti officials.

Sarah Lou Arriola, department undersecretary for migrant workers affairs, was accompanied by members of the rapid response team of the Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs that will assist the Philippine embassy in repatriating undocumented overseas Filipino workers here who availed of the amnesty granted by the Kuwait government.

"We are here to be with our kababayans para kumustahin sila and to ensure that the repatriation efforts are conducted compassionately and courageously," Arriola said upon arriving at Kuwait International Airport.

Arriola and her team were welcomed by Philippine Ambassador to Kuwait Renato Pedro Villa, consul-general Noordin Pendosina Lomondot, consul Jabbar Adiong, vice-consul Charleson Hermosura and other officials.

Arriola’s visit is part of efforts by the Philippines and Kuwait to discuss OFW concerns amid a deployment ban on newly hired Filipino workers bound for Kuwait.

She is also set to meet with some officials at the Kuwait Ministry of Foreign Affairs for similar talks. 

Arriola will also meet with the Filipino community on Friday to check on their current situation in the country as well as the more than 1,000 distressed OFWs to get their input on the issue on the deployment ban and other matters.

Meanwhile, Villa said there would be a second round of bilateral talks by next month or before the Holy Month of Ramadan to finalize the provisions in the memorandum of agreement on the protection and deployment of Filipino workers to Kuwait. 

The Philippine Overseas Labour Office has transferred about 300 distressed OFWs from the POLO-OWWA shelter in Al Siddique area to Surra area as the former has become congested.

Burayag told the Bureau that the repatriation of wards at the shelter continues with the help of the Office of Domestic Workers Affairs (ODWA) amid the influx of distressed OFWs in the shelter. 

The wards at the shelter were mostly victims of various forms of physical, verbal or sexual abuse, unpaid salaries and lack of food or overwork, he said. 

Lomondot, head of the Philippine Embassy assistance to nationals unit, has appealed anew to all undocumented Filipino workers to file their amnesty application at the embassy on or before April 12 to give the embassy ample time to process their travel documents and exit clearance before the April 22 deadline.

There are about 10,000 undocumented Filipino workers in Kuwait, based on records of the Ministry of Interior and the embassy is targeting to repatriate at least 7,000 undocumented OFWs. To date, more than 4,000 undocumented OFWs have been repatriated under the Kuwait Amnesty Program.

Currently, there are about 250,000 documented OFWs, 165,000 of them are working as domestic workers.