The Philippines will not allow any more overseas workers to toil in the oil-rich Gulf state of Kuwait after the body of Joanna Demafelis, a Filipina domestic worker, was found stuffed in a freezer. It is, furthermore, believed that over 10,000 undocumented or overstaying workers will take advantage of an amnesty program that will bring workers back. Manilla has invited, and even promised a stipend, to workers willing to leave the country to return to their country.
As of Tuesday, 2,229 Filipinos have finished the paperwork to ensure their return, while 1754 have received immigration clearances according to Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano. They only make a fraction of the 276,000 Filipino workers currently residing in Kuwait, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority.
"Our efforts to protect our people will not end with the imposition of deployment bans or the repatriation of our workers in countries where they are prone to maltreatment," Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said, "We will also go after illegal recruiters, human traffickers and other modern-day slave traders who continue to victimise our people."
CNN claims that a Filipino official told them that 510 Philippines workers have already returned on chartered flights.
Diplomatic relations between Kuwait and the Philippines have seriously deteriorated, especially since President Duterte has taken up the cause of migrant workers in the Gulf as a personal one.
"I will sell my soul to the devil to look for money so that you can come home and live comfortably here," he said in a message to Filipino workers in Kuwait on Tuesday.
Authorities believe that the body of Demafelis could have been stored for up to a year in the freezer before it was found. Authorities also said that the perpetrators, which are currently on the lookout by Interpol, are suspected to be Demafelis' Lebanese employer and his Syrian wife that fled Kuwait in November 2016 to avoid allegations of fraud.
According to the Filipino news daily, GMA News, Joanna Daniela Demafelis is survived by seven siblings and parents who sold their land to cover the costs for her to travel to Kuwait. One of her sisters, Joy, was a fourth-year criminology student who was dependent on the remittances sent by her sister.
The family had not heard back from Joanna since February 2017 but found that the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration was unresponsive to their requests to investigate her whereabouts.
The authorities of the Phillipines have welcomed the return of migrant workers back to Manilla
"Within the next few hours," wrote Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano on a Facebook post on Monday, "377 of our kababayans [compatriots], most of them women, will be arriving home from Kuwait. They will return bringing with them virtually nothing but sad stories of how their dreams for a better life for their loved ones got shattered by exploitation and abuse." he continued.
"Together with the Department of Labor and Employment, we in the Department of Foreign Affairs stand solidly behind the President in fulfilling his promise to protect the rights and promote the welfare of each and every Filipino working overseas," he concluded before offering a virtual prayer.