563 of more than 5k OFWs file for Kuwait amnesty on last day

MANILA Despite the government's repeated calsl for more than 5,000 undocumented overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Kuwait to register for an amnesty program on or before April 12, only 563 applications were submitted to the Philippine Embassy in the Gulf state on Thursday.

The amnesty program, which was supposed to end on Feb. 22, was extended by the Kuwaiti government for two months and will expire on April 22.

With only more than a week before the amnesty officially lapses, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the processing of necessary documents and clearance takes at least 10 days to process.

DFA communications chief Elmer Cato said the embassy will continue to receive requests for repatriation but they cannot assure those who would register beyond April 12 to be repatriated on or before April 22.

Cato warned that an immediate crackdown will be carried out by Kuwaiti authorities against illegal OFWs in the Gulf state starting April 23.

"We would continue to receive request for repatriation," he said. "We cannot assure all those who would come in at the last minute that we could bring them time on the 22nd. But we will try our very best to bring them home."

New OFWs have been barred from working in Kuwait after the Duterte administration imposed a total deployment ban, following the brutal murder of Joanna Demafelis, along with a series of reported abuses inflicted upon Filipina domestic workers in Gulf state.

Cato said the DFA and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) are in close coordination to iron out issues on the crafting of an agreement for the protection of OFWs in the country.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte earlier demanded that certain conditions must be included in the proposed memorandum of understanding, such as seven-hour sleep for Filipinos, granting of day off, permission to cook their own food, and the prohibition of confiscating their passport.

"Secretary (Alan Peter) Cayetano and DOLE Secretary Silvestre Bello III talked in Hong Kong. They're still trying to iron out some issues, but I think this would be resolved," he said.

Cato said an official date has yet to be set for the next meeting between the two nations.

Meanwhile, Duterte said he would go to Kuwait anytime to witness the signing of the agreement.

Source: Philippine News Agency