74 Filipino work­ers repa­tri­ated

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Ben Garcia

KUWAIT: No­raisa, a Filip­ina do­mes­tic helper in Kuwait re­turned home yes­ter­day, af­ter 16 years of work­ing with­out a visa. She is one of 74 other un­doc­u­mented Over­seas Filipino Work­ers (OFWs) in Kuwait who were repa­tri­ated as part of the con­tin­u­ing pro­gram by the Kuwait’s Min­istry of In­te­rior and Kuwait Im­mi­gra­tion De­part­ment un­der the As­sisted Vol­un­tary Repa­tri­a­tion Pro­gram (AVRP). The group flew back to the Philip­pines late yes­ter­day via Gulf Air.

The group was led to Kuwait In­ter­na­tional Air­port by Philippine Em­bassy’s As­sis­tance to Na­tion­als Unit (ATNU) along with Philippine Vice Con­sul to Kuwait Charleson Her­mo­sura. “We are happy and thank­ful for the great help and co­op­er­a­tion given to us by Kuwait’s Min­istry of In­te­rior and Im­mi­gra­tion De­part­ment. This As­sisted Vol­un­tary Repa­tri­a­tion Pro­gram (AVRP) is a con­tin­u­ing pro­gram and it helps many of our com­pa­tri­ots leave the coun­try with­out be­ing charged for vi­o­lat­ing the coun­try’s im­mi­gra­tion rules,” Her­mo­sura said. “With­out this pro­gram, many Filipinos are in jail for vi­o­lat­ing im­mi­gra­tion rules, while many are also de­ported. Thank God for AVRP,” Her­mo­sura added.

A way out

The AVRP is an agree­ment signed be­tween the Kuwait gov­ern­ment and the Philip­pines em­bassy in Kuwait as a way out for many il­le­gal Filipinos in the coun­try with­out de­ten­tion and penalty. Out of 74 repa­tri­ated OFWs yes­ter­day, only two were from the Philippine em­bassy’s Philippine Over­seas La­bor Of­fice and Over­seas Work­ers Wel­fare Ad­min­is­tra­tion (POLOOWWA) shel­ter. The Em­bassy shel­ter is cur­rently hous­ing more that 200 run­way house­maids. Their repa­tri­a­tion is also be­ing as­sisted by POLO-OWWA with the help of Kuwait’s Min­istry of In­te­rior.

To this date, there are hun­dreds of ap­pli­cants on the AVRP list. Those who wish to leave the coun­try through AVRP were asked to co­or­di­nate with the Philippine Em­bassy and wait till the Min­istry of In­te­rior pro­cesses their ap­pli­ca­tions. It usu­ally takes months to com­plete the process but while await­ing for the im­mi­gra­tion and the em­bassy pro­ce­dures to com­plete, many of the ap­pli­cants can still work at their own risk.

No­raisa, not her real name, lived in Kuwait for 16 years with­out a visa and was never stopped by the po­lice, she claimed. “Maybe be­cause I was wear­ing de­cent clothes with ‘hi­jab’ and po­lice do not mind a sim­ple woman like me. Be­sides, I rarely leave the place un­less it is very im­por­tant or to go the baqalas (small gro­cery store). I would walk closer to the build­ings and if I saw po­lice, I used to hide in the clos­est build­ing,” she said.

Case filed

No­raisa claimed to have filed a case in 2001 against her em­ployer, who did not pay her salary for a year. “That case did not pros­per and my em­ployer did not co­op­er­ate. So while wait­ing for the case to re­solve, an em­bassy per­son­nel al­lowed me to work with a Filipino cou­ple who worked as a nurse. From there I trans­ferred from one Filipino em­ployer to an­other,” she ad­mit­ted. No­raisa was also thank­ful that for the last 16 years, she has not en­coun­tered any ma­jor health is­sues. “I have only had mild fevers and mostly eat healthy food like veg­gies and seafood,” she said. She claimed to have left the Philip­pines in 1999 to work as a do­mes­tic helper. Af­ter com­plet­ing two years, she asked her un­claimed one year salary from her em­ployer which she did not get. She ran away and sought the em­bassy’s help. A case was filed but it did not re­solve since the em­ployer did not co­op­er­ate.

Seven years

Linda, an­other do­mes­tic helper also availed AVRP yes­ter­day. She worked in a sweets fac­tory in Kuwait for seven years with­out a visa. “I was ar­rested by im­mi­gra­tion po­lice four times be­cause I had no visa. But my em­ployer was a very in­flu­en­tial per­son, so po­lice would re­lease me even­tu­ally,” she told Kuwait Times.

Linda worked less than a year for her first em­ployer be­fore run­ning away. “My prob­lem with my first em­ployer was that I was the only helper in their big house. Be­sides, I was not al­lowed to take a day off; so I left that house and ran away and found a job in a sweet fac­tory,” she said. The repa­tri­ated work­ers yes­ter­day did not have to pass through a de­por­ta­tion cen­ter but were in­formed to ar­rive early at the air­port few hours be­fore their sched­uled flight at 6 pm last night.

— Photo by Ben Garcia

KUWAIT: Philippine Vice Con­sul to Kuwait Charleson Her­mo­sura talks with OFWs who re­cently availed AVRP.

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