Hundreds of OFWs from Kuwait back in PH

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 12) — Hundreds of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) granted amnesty in Kuwait are now back in the Philippines.

Around 400 OFWs arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1 (NAIA 1) on Monday morning as part of the government's mass repatriation program.

This is only the first batch of around 2,000 OFWs who will be repatriated from Kuwait until next week.

Officials from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), and Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) welcomed the OFWs at the airport and promised P5,000 cash and P2,000 livelihood assistance to the OFWs.

CNN Philippines interviewed the repatriated workers, and they said they experienced physical and emotional maltreatment, while others claimed they were not being paid correctly.

After they ran away from their employers, they were declared as overstaying, as the employers were responsible for renewing the workers' licenses and visa.

Following the death of Joanna Demafelis, the Filipino maid found in a freezer in Kuwait, the government on Monday signed the administrative order to completely ban the deployment of all workers to Kuwait.

Philippine Ambassador to Kuwait Renato Pedro Villa estimates around 10,000 OFWs are overstaying in the country. Around 80 percent of them are domestic workers, and majority of whom have claimed abuse from employers.

Villa said the Kuwait government's amnesty program is only until February 22, but he said they will ask for an extension.

"(Sana) samantalahin nila 'yung pagkakataon na ito na binigay ng Kuwait government at ng ating gobyerno na makauwi sila habang may amnesty," Villa told CNN Philippines on Sunday. "Sana ay pagbigyan yung ating kahilingan na ma-extend 'yung amnesty para lahat ng nag-overstay at tumakas na kababayan, tumakas sa kanilang employer, ay makauwi na."

(Translation: I hope they would take advantage of the chance given by Kuwait and the Philippine government to go home. I hope the Kuwait government would also extend the amnesty so all who are overstaying and those who escaped from their employers can go home.)

Villa also hopes the two governments can sit and talk about the welfare of migrant workers.

CNN Philippines' Rex Remitio contributed to this report.