MANILA – Hundreds of Filipinos landed at Manila’s international airport on Wednesday after being repatriated from Kuwait where they had been employed as household workers.
A total of 396 Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) arrived on a Cebu Pacific airlines flight and were gathered in an arrival area of the airport.
Officials in the airport were busy helping the workers fill out and check their arrival documents, in the absence of the OFWs’ passports, as their Kuwaiti employers had taken them to prevent workers from leaving.
An official with the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) said that as part of the mass repatriation process, the agency would give 5,000 pesos ($95) – to be matched by the same amount from Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte – to each returning worker, as well as provide them with a place to stay as they await transportation back to their home provinces.
The OWWA official, who was not named, added the organization would also pay for workers’ transportation costs.
A staff member from Cebu Pacific at the airport also said that the flight transporting the 396 passengers was the largest so far in the repatriation effort.
Wednesday’s flight was scheduled just for the workers, one of several such flights recently carrying thousands of OFWs back to the Philippines after the death of 29-year-old domestic worker Joanna Demafelis in Kuwait spurred a government ban on Filipino workers heading to the Middle Eastern country.
The government has urged the OWWA to form a plan to reintegrate 10,000 Filipino workers who are expected to return to the Philippines and whose work permits have expired, the Philippine News Agency reported last Thursday.
More than 1,500 OFWs have already returned to the Southeast Asian country since the repatriation began early last week.
Demafelis’ body was returned to the Philippines last Friday after it was discovered on Feb. 7 in Kuwait inside a freezer, where authorities believe it had been for more than a year.
Interpol has been working with Kuwaiti authorities to locate the suspects in her death, believed to be her Lebanese and Syrian former employers.