OFW dies in Iraq, Philippine Embassy learns a month later

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Filipinos traditionally commemorate the 40th day after a person's death.

But for an overseas Filipina worker in Iraq, it took more than 40 days for her countrymen to discover her passing.

Her name is Laida Hajan, Chargé d' Affaires Elmer Cato of the Philippine Embassy in Baghdad said in his Facebook post Tuesday.

He called her "the woman in the freezer" because her remains stayed in the hospital freezer for more than a month before the Philippine emissary was informed of her demise.

Hajan, 36, passed away in her sleep in Erbil, capital of the Iraqi Kurdistan region — away from her seven children and loved ones.

"Her Kurdish employer immediately reported her death to the manpower company in Erbil that was responsible for bringing her to Iraq, but the Embassy never received a call from them," Cato said.

Some 40 days after, the employer found out Hajan's body was still in the hospital freezer — and that's the only time Hajan's passing reached the Philippine Embassy.

The Embassy then called Hajan's manpower agency, but they lied, saying they were only informed of her death a few days earlier, Cato said.

They also failed to give contact details of Hajan's next of kin.

"That's when we did a DU30 (a nickname used for tough-talking President Rodigo Duterte) and said things you would never hear diplomats say," Cato said. "This was totally unacceptable. This is not the way to treat both the living and the dead."

Around 10 million Filipinos are working and residing abroad.

A significant number of OFWs could be victims of sex trafficking, forced labor, and other forms of exploitation, the U.S. Department of State said in its 2016 Trafficking in Persons Report.

Hajan was one of the many Filipino victims of human trafficking.

"Along with several others, she was offered a job in Dubai or Turkey by illegal recruiters in Mindanao," Cato said. "She took a perilous boat ride to Malaysia and eventually ended up in Iraq despite the existing ban in the deployment of Filipinos."

Because she used a different name when she applied for work, the Embassy had to ask help from Filipinos in Kurdistan to find out her real identity and how to reach her family in Indanan, Sulu.

More than a month after her death, Hajan is finally coming home.

"She will be home soon," Cato stressed. "Her husband and her children are there waiting."