THE Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is repatriating a batch of 200 undocumented Filipinos, including 18 infants below two years old, on Monday (April 16, 2018) under the amnesty program granted by the Kuwaiti government for Filipinos.
The 200 repatriates bring to 4,164 as of April 14 the number of OFWs in Kuwait that were able to return home after availing of the amnesty, DFA Undersecretary Sarah Lou Arriola said in an interview at the Philippine Embassy in Kuwait.
The amnesty is set to expire April 22, leaving at least 5,000 more undocumented Filipinos who has yet registered for the program at risk of crackdown. Citing the data from Kuwait’s Ministry of Interior, DFA said there are more than 10,000 overstaying and runaway Filipinos in the Gulf state.
“We’re really hoping na may mga humabol pa, kasi sa tingin ko, before 22 makakapag-uwi tayo ng a little less than 5,000 Filipinos [We’re really hoping there would be more that would avail of the program, and before the 22nd, we can bring home a little less than 5,000 Filipinos] ,” Arriola said.
Although the Philippine Embassy in Kuwait gave a deadline on April 12 for registration, Arriola said no Filipinos, until April 22, will be denied from amnesty application.
“Gagawa’t gagawa kami ng paraan para maihabol yung exit nila [we will do our best to beat the deadline] before April 22, kasi [because] after that, crackdown na, manghuhuli na, ikukulong na, then total ban na sila rito sa Kuwait at may fine pa iyon [they would be imprisoned and fined],” she added.
The official said all who registered for repatriation will receive a P5,000 cash from the DFA in Manila. This, in addition to the labor department’s cash assistance and the livelihood package they can apply for.
“Just to give you a rough idea, more than 1/3 of our operations sa DFA is going to Kuwait,” she said when asked how much of the Assistance to Nationals (ATN) fund has already been disbursed in Kuwait repatriations.
She continued: “Sabi naman ni President Rodrigo Duterte, gamitin niyo whatever you have, so lahat ng resources natin, halos lahat, nakatutok dito [The President instructed us to use whatever we have so our resources are poured here].”
Arriola assured that government agencies are in close coordination to direct other Filipinos in labor markets being opened in other countries.
“We are also doing the best we can to see other places like China, Czech Republic para makapag-apply rin sila [so they can apply],” Arriola said.
From January 29, the start of the amnesty program, Arriola said more than 5,000 OFWs registered. Of this figure, around 560 registered on April 12, with still more expected to apply this week.
“Tinulungan din namin ang ating mga kapatid sa Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) Kuwait na mag-uwi ng mga kapatid natin sa shelter kasi ang goal ay to bring everyone home [We are also helping POLO Kuwait to bring home our fellow Filipinos in the shelter because the goal is to bring everyone home.],” Arriola said.