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Duterte ban leaves 10,000 Filipinos stranded

Overseas Filipino workers (OFW) look on after arriving in Manila from Kuwait at Manila International Airport. (AFP)
MANILA: As Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has made good on his threat to ban his citizens from going to Kuwait for work, some 10,000 Filipino workers are now stranded in their home country despite having all the necessary documents, said recruitment and migration expert Emmanuel Geslani.

“Filipinos who want to work in Kuwait are being prevented from being able to earn income for their families,” he told Arab News.

“Around 10,000 are stranded (in the Philippines), both skilled and household service workers.”

Recruitment agencies, which collect full payment once workers start their employment, are incurring considerable costs in having paid for their training, as well as feeding and accommodating them while they wait to leave, he added.

The Philippine government on Monday ordered the ban, weeks after Duterte complained about abuses and maltreatment suffered by overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Kuwait.

But Geslani said: “Out of the 170,000 Filipino household workers in Kuwait, only 2 percent really have problems.”

The ban covers all workers being sent for the first time to Kuwait for employment, without distinction as to skill, profession or type of work. But Geslani said the ban should only cover household workers, not those who are skilled.

The Philippines has also started repatriating thousands of OFWs in Kuwait. So far, more than 2,200 have been issued travel documents, and 1,754 have been granted immigration clearance.

Those interviewed by Arab News, most of them household workers, said they went to Kuwait to provide a better life for their families. “Now I come home with virtually nothing for my children,” said Salama, from Cotabato City.

Citing figures from the Central Bank, Geslani said the ban will not have a major impact on the Philippine economy because OFW remittances from Kuwait account for only 3 percent of foreign remittances. That percentage “isn’t really big,” he added. “That’s about $1.5 billion annually.”

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