Press Statement
17 May 2023

Migrante International raises alarm over Kuwait’s recent rejection of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs): many have been offloaded from their flights, many have been repatriated after transit, 78 OFWs were repatriated on May 12, and a reported 130 OFWs are stranded daily. Our kababayans have surely incurred costs, even debts, in the process of trying to work abroad. Not allowed to enter Kuwait, they will not earn the salary that they would have sent to their families or used to start paying their debts. We call on the Philippine government to provide immediate assistance to OFWs who have been sent back by Kuwait.

We condemn the Kuwait government for sending back OFWs because it sees the Philippine government as abetting violations of labor agreements by providing shelters to distressed OFWs. Domestic workers, who comprise a big chunk of OFWs in Kuwait, are most vulnerable to labor exploitation and sexual abuse and violence, especially in foreign lands. The Philippine government has the obligation to protect its citizens abroad. It is right in maintaining shelters for distressed OFWs; it should even expand these.  The kafala system, which makes employers’ control over OFWs nearly absolute, should be removed to protect and respect workers’ and migrants’ rights.

The hundreds, perhaps thousands, of OFWs who have been sent back by Kuwait are an addition to the increasing number of unemployed in the country. Almost 200 OFWs have recently been repatriated from Sudan because of the conflict in that country. The Philippine government is bragging about new jobs since January 2020, but majority of these are part-time work, according to independent think-tank Ibon Foundation. Unemployment in the country remains widespread and continues to grow, the quality of available jobs still leaves much to be desired, and the OFW phenomenon continues.

Kuwait’s rejection of OFWs is yet another proof that labor export is unsustainable in the long run for the country. It makes us dependent on the changing demands of other countries, some of whom resent efforts to protect OFWs’ rights. It makes OFWs vulnerable to labor exploitation and various forms of abuse. It has not and will not bring about real development for the country. The government’s overdependence on OFW remittances is a disincentive to taking important measures to solve the country’s economic problems, develop agriculture and industries, and generate jobs at home. 

We therefore condemn the Bongbong Marcos regime for stepping up the implementation of the government’s labor export policy, and for refusing to take steps to develop the country’s agriculture and industry to generate jobs in the country. Its authoritarian nostalgia and adherence to neoliberal economic policies are leading the country nowhere and increasing Filipinos’ suffering.###