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Amnesty extension provides relief to illegal residents, Filipino delegation heads to Kuwait
February 22, 2018, 10:01 am

The government decision to extend the amnesty period for residency violators to 22 April, comes as a welcome respite for those expatriates struggling to rectify their illegal status by the earlier given deadline of 22 February.

A notice issued by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior Sheikh Khaled Jarrah Al-Sabah on Tuesday, 20 February, stated that the amnesty period had been extended for two months with the end date now falling on 22 April, 2018.

To recap, the Ministry of Interior had earlier granted amnesty for residency violations from 29 January to 22 February. Any expatriate stranded in the country on account of expired visas, or other residency-related issues, were allowed to rectify their residency status and pay any accumulated fine, or exit the country without paying due fines.

In recent weeks, several Asian embassies had witnessed huge crowds as their nationals gathered there to obtain the necessary travel documents needed to facilitate their exit from the country.

Thousands of illegal residents had made use of the amnesty period to regain their residency or to leave the country voluntarily. But there were many more struggling to meet the Thursday deadline, to them, the decision by the Interior Ministry to extend the amnesty period is no doubt of immense relief.

Meanwhile, Philippine officials are headed to Kuwait this week to seek greater protection for migrant workers after a diplomatic row over the alleged mistreatment of Filipinos.

Labour Secretary Silvestre Bello told reporters that one of his deputies would lead the delegation, which is also due to stop in Saudia Arabia and Qatar to urge reforms. Topping the list are demands that Filipino workers be allowed to keep their cellphones and passports, which can be confiscated by employers.

The trip comes after Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte last week announced a departure ban for Filipinos planning to work in Kuwait. He was responding to the murder of a Filipina maid whose body was found stuffed in a freezer in Kuwait this month. Duterte’s ban sparked a diplomatic flap between the Philippines and Kuwait as he alleged that employers routinely raped their Filipina workers, forced them to work 21 hours a day and fed them scraps.

Kuwait has invited Duterte for a visit and he is scheduled trip is sometime in March. Authorities say some 252,000 Filipinos work in Kuwait, as many as 160,000 as maids. They are among over two million employed in the region, whose remittances are a lifeline to the Philippine economy.

“We are going to Kuwait on Thursday, Saudi Arabia and then on to Qatar to ensure that our overseas Filipino workers have sufficient protection,” said Labour Undersecretary Ciriaco Lagunzad, who will head the delegation.

“We are afraid that because of the decision of the president to have a deployment ban, our overseas Filipino workers in Kuwait might be affected,” he added. Lagunzad said Duterte had ordered the team to ensure that the passports of Filipino workers are deposited with the Philippine embassy.

Duterte also wanted Filipinos to have access to cellphones so they can call for help in case of abuse, Lagunzad said. About 10 million Filipinos work abroad and their treatment abroad is often a political issue at home.

Another team of labour officials said on Wednesday they would conduct negotiations with Kuwait next week on a deal to protect Filipino workers. “Hopefully we can finalise the memorandum of agreement and by the first or second week of March, we will have the signing by the Kuwaiti and Philippine governments,” said Claro Arellano, another labour undersecretary.


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