The Philippine Charge d’Affaires to Kuwait Charles Hermosura revealed that more than 23,000 Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in Kuwait have been displaced as a consequence of the coronavirus pandemic. Some of them were terminated while others are on “no work, no pay status.” He made the statements during his interview on TFC News Live.

Highlighting that the displaced OFWs number was derived from the number of financial aid applications received by the Philippine Overseas Labour Office (POLO) in Kuwait, Hermosura noted that 5,011 were the recipients of cash aid worth US$200 from the Department of Labor and Employment.

Aside from the financial aid, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) in Kuwait has also distributed relief goods to thousands of displaced Filipinos that were suffering especially during the lockdown. There are around 240,000 OFWs in Kuwait, 65 per cent of which are domestic workers while 35 per cent are professionals, skilled and semi-skilled workers that are enduring trying times during the coronavirus pandemic.

With regards to the repatriation of Filipinos to the Philippines, Hermosura pointed out that Kuwait Airways chartered flights are continuing to fly the displaced OFWs who wish to return home.

Some companies have sponsored the air tickets of their workers while other workers had to buy their own tickets as their companies refused to take responsibility of their repatriation back home. There is the unfortunate circumstances of some displaced workers who would like to return to their country, but have no money for their air tickets, and hence are forced to wait for the Philippine government’s assistance to provide a free chartered flight. “We still don’t have any official instruction with regard to the mercy flight, but we will definitely announce and let the Filipino community know if there is one,” clarified Hermosura.

As part of the repatriation plans, around 315 stranded OFWs departed Kuwait on Wednesday via a Kuwait Airways chartered flight organized by Al Tayer Travels in coordination with the Philippine Embassy that helped in acquiring a flight clearance from the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP). “We would like to thank the Philippine Embassy for helping facilitate the flight clearance, and we hope to organize more chartered flights to help bring home stranded Filipinos back to the Philippines,” stated Al Tayer Travels Chairman Fahad Al Baker. Al Tayer Travels also allotted 10 free seats to distressed OFWs endorsed by the Embassy as well as free protective kits with face shields, masks, gloves and hand sanitizers to all passengers on board the chartered flight.

Philippine Vice Consul Adrian Baccay, who was present at the airport to help the departees leave Kuwait, advised all those who wish to go home to contact their employers or sponsors as it has been stated in the work contract that it’s the sponsor’s responsibility to buy the tickets once their contracts ended. “Most of the tickets of those who were repatriated recently where sponsored by their companies so contact your company, and they will in turn coordinate with the travel agencies that are organizing chartered flights,” explained Baccay.  To date, more than 4,000 OFWs have been repatriated to the Philippines since March.

Meanwhile, Filipinos were among the casualties of coronavirus patients that succumbed to the virus, as Kuwait exerts all efforts to fight the COVID-19. Thirty-one Filipinos in Kuwait have died due to COVID-19 with four healthcare workers among the dead.

Hermosura disclosed that based on the report received by the embassy some 300 Filipinos contracted the virus but around 260 have already recovered.

In regard to the opening of the embassy after it was shut down temporarily on July 2, 2020 when two staff members tested positive of COVID-19, the Philippine Embassy and the POLO-OWWA will open on Sunday to allow Filipino nationals to complete their paperwork.

In accordance with the protocols of the World Health Organization and the Kuwait Ministry of Health, people in close contact with a COVID-19 positive have to undergo a 14-day quarantine. “The POLO will also resume with its distribution of the DOLE-AKAP cas assistance to all qualified OFWs,” informed Hermosura. Filipinos who want to have their passport renewed or extended as well as other consular services must book their appointment online.

The Philippine Embassy advises all Filipinos to check the embassy’s official Facebook page for updates: www. facebook.com/PHinKuwait or they may call the Consular (Passport) Section Hotlines: 65184433 or 69902188; ATNU Hotline: 65002612; and POLO-OWWA Hotline: 94039063