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25,000 Filipino workers stranded after ban on deployment of OFWs in Kuwait

25,000 Filipino workers stranded after ban on deployment of OFWs in Kuwait

Around 25,000 Filipino workers were stranded in the country after the government issued a ban on the deployment of overseas Filipino workers (OFW) to Kuwait.

“And, while they are waiting, the agencies continue to pay for their housing accommodation, waiting for the go signal to proceed to Kuwait,” recruitment consultant Manny Geslani told Business Mirror.

Philippines bans new employment of workers in Kuwait

Foreign Secretary Alan Peter S. Cayetano and Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III spoke to Business Mirror saying both the DFA and the Department of Labor and Employment  (DOLE) will implement the President’s instructions “to ensure the protection of the rights and the promotion of the welfare of overseas Filipino workers, not just in Kuwait but also in other parts of the world.”

Secretary Silvestre Bello III also clarified that not all workers will be forced to go home.

As part of the government’s mass repatriation program, over 400 OFWs were brought back home on Monday.

Estimates suggest that around 10,000 OFWs are overstaying in Kuwait. 80 per cent of these, around 8,000 are domestic workers.

Both suspects arrested for Filipina’s death in Kuwait freezer

Both suspects in the gruesome death of a Filipina maid whose body was found stuffed in a freezer in an apartment in Kuwait has been arrested. Lebanese national Nader Essam Assaf, the man involved in the death of Joanna Demafelis was arrested in Lebanon, the Philippine foreign secretary said on Friday.

Assaf’s wife Mona Hassoun was meanwhile arrested earlier on Saturday according to a report from GMA News Online.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said that the Syrian authorities have arrested Mona Hassoun. The department announced that she was caught only a day after her husband was arrested.

“We have just been informed by the Philippine Embassy in Kuwait that Mona Hassoun, wife of Nader Essam Assaf, who are the principal suspects in the murder of Joanna Demafelis, is now in custody of authorities in Damascus,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said, as quoted in the report.

The secretary told the public that his department together with the Department of Labour and Employment will follow Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s instructions to seek justice for Demafelis’ death.

The discovery of Demafelis’s body on February 6 in a freezer in Kuwait City, where it had reportedly been kept for more than a year, sparked outrage in the Philippines and refocused attention on the tragic plight of poor Filipinos toiling mostly as maids abroad.

It prompted Duterte to ban the deployment of new Filipino workers to Kuwait, where many abuses have been reported.

Assaf and his wife employed Demafelis.

Read more: Maid’s body found in Kuwait freezer returned to Philippines

After attending Demafelis’s wake on Thursday in her hometown of Sara in the central Philippines, Duterte told reporters the ban on the deployment of Filipino workers to Kuwait would continue and could be expanded to other countries.

Duterte said Demafelis’s body bore torture marks and signs that she was strangled. He said the government is conducting an assessment to “find out the places where we deploy Filipinos and our countrymen suffer brutal treatment and human degradation.”

The Philippines is a major labor exporter with about a tenth of its more than 100 million people working abroad. The workers have been called the country’s heroes because the income they send home has propped up the Southeast Asian nation’s economy for decades, accounting for about 10 percent of its annual gross domestic product.

Philippine officials are under increasing pressure to do more to monitor the safety of the country’s worldwide diaspora of mostly maids, construction workers and laborers.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III told a Senate hearing Wednesday that he has recalled three Filipino labor officers from Kuwait to face an investigation. They failed to act on a request by Demafelis’s family for help after she went missing in January last year, he said.

Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration reported that at least 196 Filipinos had died in Kuwait in the last two years, mostly for unspecified medical reasons but also four who committed suicide.

The sheer number of Filipino workers abroad makes monitoring their wellbeing an overwhelming task. That is often complicated by workers not having proper travel and work documents, such as in Kuwait, where nearly 11,000 of the more than 252,000 Filipino workers are in the country illegally or are not properly authorized.

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