MANILA - The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Friday 800 undocumented overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Kuwait are scheduled to go home.
This followed President Rodrigo Duterte's directive to Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III for the repatriation of OFWs who want to come home from the Gulf state within 72 hours in the wake of recent deaths of Filipinos there.
DFA Undersecretary Sarah Lou Arriola said government has already booked tickets for these OFWs, mostly household service workers. They will be repatriated in batches from February 11 to 13.
In a press conference Friday, Duterte said the government would cover repatriation costs of migrants who want to come home.
“Everyone who wants to come home, I said to [Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III], those who want to be repatriated, with or without money, I will ask PAL (Philippine Airlines) and Cebu Pacific to provide the transportation. I want them out of the country, those who want to go out, in 72 hours," said Duterte, who had earlier threatened to withdraw all OFWs in Kuwait.
Of the 260,000 OFWs in Kuwait, 170,000 are household service workers, said Arriola. A total of 10,800 are “overstaying violators.”
Duterte on Friday hit the abuse and cruelty that OFWs experience in the hands of their employers in Kuwait and other countries in the Middle East. He said the standing ban on the deployment of Filipinos to the Gulf state would remain indefinitely.
“I am ready to take drastic steps that will help preserve Filipino life and limb. We do not intend to offend any government or anyone. But if a ban is what is needed, let it be so,” Duterte said.
Last year, 103 OFW deaths were recorded in Kuwait, up from 2016 figures at 82.
“Why are all these guys suffering? They are there because their children cannot go to school if they do not sacrifice,” Duterte said, adding that “a family becomes dysfunctional once a mother or father works overseas.”
Bello said he recommended to continue the deployment ban until the government has “discovered the true causes of death of 7 OFWs," including Demafelis' case.
Duterte also ordered law enforcers to arrest the recruiters of OFWs who died in Kuwait.