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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 11 December 2018

Philippines: More than 2,200 citizens in Kuwait want to go home

It comes after the president asked Philippine airlines to provide flights for Filipinos who want to leave Kuwait

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte shows a photo of a Filipina worker in Kuwait, who he said had been abused by her employer, during a press conference in Davao City on February 9, 2018. Manman Dejeto / AFP
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte shows a photo of a Filipina worker in Kuwait, who he said had been abused by her employer, during a press conference in Davao City on February 9, 2018. Manman Dejeto / AFP

More than 2,200 Filipinos are ready to take up President Rodrigo Duterte's offer to repatriate workers from Kuwait due to reports of abuse, the Philippine labour minister said on Sunday.

Mr Duterte asked Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific on Friday last week to provide flights for Filipinos who want to leave Kuwait, after the body of a Philippine worker was found in a freezer of an abandoned apartment.

"We have been informed that as of Friday there were 2,200-plus Filipinos who are willing to go home," Labour Secretary Silvestre Bello III said, adding that some of them had overstayed their visas and applied for an amnesty.

The airlines have arranged free charter flights and Mr Bello said almost 500 Filipino workers were due to arrive soon.

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The Philippines suspended sending workers to Kuwait in January after reports that abuse by employers had driven several to suicide. Mr Duterte said on Friday that the suspension would remain indefinitely.

Kuwait's Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Al Jarallah expressed "surprise and sorrow" in January at remarks made by Mr Duterte relating to the reports of abuse, saying that legal proceedings had been taken in the four suicide cases mentioned by the president.

More than 250,000 Filipinos work in Kuwait, the Philippine foreign ministry estimates, most as domestic helpers.

The government would help repatriated workers look for jobs, Mr Bello said.

"We are into a re-integration programme, we have a programme in place for them," he told the ANC news channel. "They will be given a livelihood."

"We are now in the process of looking for alternative markets. One of them is China and even Russia," he said, without elaborating.