Thanks to an immigration scheme, a large group of distressed Filipina maids in Kuwait were able to go back home to the Philippines.
For years, and maybe decades, domestic help in the oil-rich Persian Gulf, hailing from developing south and southeast Asian countries, has suffered torture at the hands of their wealthy, mostly Arab, employers.
In most of the cases, the maids’ passports are confiscated upon arrival so it’s practically impossible for them to escape the abuse.
However, things are changing — even if gradually — to free distressed workers from the suffocating clutches of their bosses.
Case in point: the Assisted Voluntary Repatriation Program, which is a mutual agreement signed between the government of Kuwait and its Philippine embassy. It seeks to address the problem of a rising number of illegal expatriates, mostly labor force, in the Arab country.
Through this program, repatriated workers are sent straight to the airport without having to pass through the deportation center, locally known as Talha prison.
Just this week, 143 maids, almost all of whom complained of mistreatment by their former employers — in some cases sexual abuse — were able to travel to Manila via AVRP.
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Nearly all the maids being repatriated were happy to leave.
“Thank God, I can go back to my family in one piece,” a worker named Mila told the Kuwait Times. “I was verbally and physically abused by my female employer, but I had to stay at the embassy because the employer would not want to cooperate and filed a case against me.”
“I hope the next president will pay due attention to our plight,” said Annalyn, another maid, referring to the upcoming presidential elections in the Philippines. “I am now very happy because I am finally heading home after five months. But I still have a few friends left behind who couldn’t go home because of some cases filed against them by their employers. I hope the next president will look after their needs and if possible temporarily stop sending OFWs (Overseas Filipino Workers) to the Middle East.”
As of 2013, foreigners make up about 69 percent of Kuwait's 3.8 million-strong population. Of them, reportedly 200,000 are Filipinos, more than one third of whom are domestic help. The Kuwait Times states “around five to seven housemaids run away from their employers daily.”
Around 300 more await repatriation at two Philippine embassy shelters in the regions of Faiha and Hateen.