Nightmare finally over for PH domestic workers
Seila Rasid smiled as she looked out the glass window of Gate 12 at Terminal 1 of Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) on Monday. She was home.
She sneaked into Kuwait in 2012 to get some “alone time or a vacation” after learning that she was an adopted child.
But instead of vacationing, she illegally worked in Kuwait as a domestic helper and went through five years of hell at the hands of brutal employers.
Now 22 and six months pregnant by her Syrian boyfriend, Rasid could smile as she pronounced her “nightmare finally over.”
Rasid was one of 377 migrants brought home by the government on Monday as President Duterte clamped a ban on deployment of workers to Kuwait due to reports of abuse against Filipinos by Kuwait employers.
The migrants arrived home as the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) urged the government to file a diplomatic protest over the maltreatment of Filipinos in Kuwait.
Balanga Bishop Ruperto Santos, chair of the CBCP’s Episcopal Commission on Migrants and Itinerant Peoples, backed the government’s decision to ban the deployment of workers to the emirate following the discovery of the body of a Filipino woman in a freezer at an abandoned apartment.
“It’s only right to file a diplomatic protest. Ensure that those responsible be made accountable, and stop the deployment of [workers] and take care of [the] Filipino workers there,” Santos said on Church-run Radio Veritas.
The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration is expecting more than 2,500 migrants to return home by Feb. 22, according to its chief, Hans Leo Cacdac.
The migrants flown in on Monday had either escaped from abusive employers and sought help from the Philippine Embassy in Kuwait or had overstayed there, he said.
Cacdac said he believed more Filipinos wanted to go home but could not get in touch with the embassy for help. They could be illegal workers whose movements are restricted by their employers.
Rasid, a native of Malabang town in Lanao del Sur, had been one of them. She had traveled to Kuwait on a fake passport that showed she was born in 1946.
That she got past immigration both in Manila and in Kuwait indicated the hand of unscrupulous people whose work had landed tens of thousands of Filipinos like her in the homes of foreigners who treated them like animals.
“You won’t recognize me years ago because my face was covered with bruises,” she said, as she spoke of her experience at the hands of her first employer, an old Kuwaiti man.
“He never called me by my name. He called me ‘hayman’ (animal) or ‘mar’ (monster) and even ‘kelb’ (dog),” she said. “But that was all right. I needed the job and the money.”
She said she was punched, kicked and had her head smashed on a wall. “They are demons there in Kuwait,” she said.
She said she was sold to a Syrian family, who sold her to a labor agency. When she got the chance, she escaped with only the clothes on her back and was adopted by a group of Filipinos.
Rasid vowed never to return to Kuwait, but 41-year-old Alma Cabarles, who was also among those repatriated on Monday, would do so “if the offer is right.” —WITH A REPORT FROM JULIE M. AURELIO
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