Kuwait sends home 253 undocumented, distressed OFWs on special flight

Maxxy Santiago, ABS-CBN Middle East News Bureau

Posted at Mar 26 2020 01:37 AM

Distressed OFWs at the Kuwait International Airport Terminal 4 waiting for check-in procedures. Maxxy Santiago, ABS-CBN Middle East News Bureau

KUWAIT CITY - Some 253 undocumented and distressed overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) were repatriated to the Philippines on Wednesday on board a Kuwait Airways special flight as part of the Kuwaiti government’s precautionary measure to thwart the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the country.

The move aims to decongest the Kuwaiti deportation center and the Public Authority Manpower (PAM) Shelter at Jleeb Al Shuyoukh, as well as for humanitarian grounds, according to Kuwait officials.

“The repatriates today came from the deportation center, PAM shelter, and the POLO-OWWA shelter. The Kuwait Ministry of Interior through the immigration authorities issued them the exit clearances and we would like to thank the Kuwaiti government for expediting the issuance of their exit clearances,” said Philippine Charge d’ Affaires to Kuwait Charleson Hermosura.

He went to the Kuwait International Airport Terminal 4, together with Vice Consul Adrian Baccay and other Philippine Embassy personnel, to assist the repatriates.

Hermosura said that as of March 25, there are no more Filipinos detained at the Kuwait Deportation Centre or distressed OFWs at the PAM shelter in Jleeb Al Shuyoukh.

However, there are still some 91 distressed OFWs at the POLO-OWWA shelter who have a travel ban and were not able to get exit clearances. 

He said they will be working on the cases of these OFWs at the POLO-OWWA shelter after the one-month public holiday declared by Kuwait is over.

Most of the undocumented and distressed OFWs worked as household service workers (HSWs) who left their employers after experiencing maltreatment .

The repatriates thanked the Kuwait government, the Philippine Embassy and the Philippine Overseas Labor Office for processing all their travel documents.

“Sa Pilipinas po pag-uwi po ng ating mga kababayan galing dito Kuwait, meron po tayong mga DOLE and OWWA officials who will be meeting with them at meron pong hinanda po nila na mga temporary shelters na pag-i-stay-han nila bago po sila makarating sa kanilang mga sari-sariling probinsiya,” said Philippine Assistant Labor Attache to Kuwait Cathrine Duladul who was also at the airport with welfare officers and POLO-OWWA staff to see off the repatriates and ensure their smooth check-in procedures.

The special Kuwait Airways flight shouldered by the Kuwait government is set to arrive in Manila at 3:30 am on March 26. 

Kuwait has suspended all commercial flights to and from Kuwait since March 13 as part of its precautionary measures against COVID-19 with the exception of special flights for Kuwaitis and their relatives and cargo flights, as well as flights of expatriates made on special arrangements.

According to the Kuwait Ministry of Health as of March 25, 2020, there are 195 COVID-19 cases and six of them are Filipino domestic workers who had close contact with their employers who had recent travel history. 

There are 43 recovered cases, 6 in the ICU, 152 active cases, and 717 have been discharged from quarantine. 

Kuwait has been on a month-long public holiday for both the government and private sectors since March 12, 2020 and a curfew has been imposed from 5 p.m. to 4 a.m. to contain the spread of COVID-19.