MANILA – The Department of Labor and Employment will send a team Thursday to Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia to assess the situation of overseas Filipino workers in the Middle East as Manila continues to observe a deployment ban to Kuwait, which accounted for the highest number of OFW victims of abuse and deaths.
DOLE Undersecretary Carlos Lagunzad will lead the team, which will also ensure that OFWs in other parts of the region are not affected by the ban.
The team will also help in the process of having the rest of the abused OFWs repatriated to the Philippines.
According to Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello, the DOLE has already engaged the Kuwaiti government to push for a Memorandum of Understanding covering labor between the two countries.
Kuwait was earlier reported to have “sat” for two years on a draft MOU that Manila sought to put in place, precisely to curb the rising incidence of abuse.
A team by Undersecretary Claro Arellano will handle negotiations for the protection of the OFWs in Kuwait.
The absence of any formal labora arrangement had been blamed for the remarkably higher inidence of OFW abuse in the tiny oil-rich kingdom.
According to Arellano, among the items to be covered by the MOU involves the Kuwaiti government giving the OFWs permission to hold their passports and use mobile phones for faster communications with their families back home.
Arellano is confident the MOU can be finalized next week, and signed by the second week of March at the latest.
Bello said that once the accord is signed, OFWs can be assured of adequate protection, and once this is guaranteed, the Philippine government will start re-assessing the situation to make a decision on lifting the deployment ban.
Bello, meanwhile, ordered all labor attachés and welfare officers in various countries to report with dispatch to the DOLE, within 24 hours, all cases of abuse, mistreatment and contract violations that OFWs bring to their attention.
The DOLE has set up a command center to respond to the welfare cases of OFWs, Bello said.
Liekwise, a one-stop shop for reintegration assistance for returning OFWs is being established.
According to Lagunzad, DOLE is also setting up a web-based alert system that allows OFWs to quickly post reports and complaints of abuse.
In all, an estimated 251,000 Filipinos work in Kuwait. Of this number, 163,000 household workers who account for most of the cases of abuse.