Gov’t vows to bring home OFWs stuck in Kuwait shelters

KUWAIT � Ensuring the welfare of Filipinos abroad, the Philippine government, through the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) over the weekend visited hospitals and government shelters here that house distressed overseas Filipino workers in Kuwait.

In one shelter in Surra, Kuwait, where more than 200 Filipinos are housed, everyone shed tears and expressed joy after the government delegation assured them of support.

This shelter, which is different from the one located beside the Philippine Embassy in Kuwait where laughter could be heard from the halls, is located at a residential area in the Capital Governorate of Kuwait.

According to house parents manning the shelters, silence is their number one house rule since neighbors cannot handle noise within the subdivision.

Hushed voices and silent cries welcomed the Philippine delegation composed of PCOO Assistant Secretary Margaux Uson, DFA Undersecretary Sarah Lou Arriola, ACTS OFW party-list Representative John Bertiz III, and officials from the Philippine Overseas Labor Office-Overseas Workers Welfare Administration of the DOLE.

To make the overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) at the shelter feel that they are important and not forgotten, government officials gathered them for a small pep talk, even inviting iconic Filipino fast-food chain Jollibee to cheer them up for a while.

Arriola said the Duterte administration is in full force and doing its best to ensure the welfare of OFWs in the Gulf state.

For his part, DOLE Undersecretary Ciriaco A. Lagunzad III assured the OFWs that their team will continue to work hard to serve all the distressed workers.

"It's important that we're here together to continue serving you, we will always go back to attend to your needs, we're here to listen, he said in Filipino.

You know that there's a process but you will eventually go home. I don't know someone who was not able to go home during my stay here in the Middle East, he added.

Uson, for her part, assured Filipinos at the Al-Mubarak Hospital and the shelters that President Rodrigo Duterte will even go lengths just to serve Filipinos who left their family to work abroad.

The President said he is willing to spend money for our OFWs, the government never forgets you, she said in Filipino.

Unforgotten

At the Al-Mubarak hospital, Menchie Romero, a Filipina who went viral online for posting pictures of bruises she obtained from her female employer, said she didn't believe at first that she will be saved after more than seven months of torture and abuse abroad.

Romero, who is presently admitted at the Al-Mubarak Hospital in Kuwait, is now in better shape according to a Filipina nurse handling her.

However, with two small spinal fractures, she's still required to undergo at least three months of therapy.

"She's okay, her vitals are stable, her CT scan is done with no evidence of hemorrhage, but there are multiple hematoma," the nurse said in an interview who asked not to be named.

According to Philippine Consul General in Kuwait Pedrosino Lomondot, the embassy will extend legal assistance to the Filipina.

During a meeting with Uson at the hospital, Romero said once she gets home, she will hug her family dearly.

Thank you to President Duterte, to all those who helped me, I realized that if I die, there are those who would really weep for me, she said crying.

It's an overwhelming feeling when you someone makes you feel important, she added.

The DFA augmentation team and the Philippine Embassy, in coordination with the Kuwaiti police on Thursday, had secured Romero's custody.

At the two shelters manned by POLE-OWWA in Kuwait, at least 800 Filipino workers are still waiting for their completed papers.

Meanwhile, of the 10,000 undocumented Filipino workers in the Gulf state, more than 5,000 were already brought home by the DFA since the Kuwait's amnesty program started last January 29.

The last batch of distressed OFWs arrived in Manila on Monday, April 23.

From PHP400 million, the legislative branch last year approved President Duterte's request to increase the DFA's Assistance to Nationals (ATN) fund to PHP1 billion and the Legal Assistance Fund (LAF) from PHP100 million to PHP200 million for 2018.

Since the repatriation began, the government spent more than PHP80 million for OFWs in Kuwait alone.

Source: Philippine News Agency

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