AMMAN — The Philippine embassy on Thursday called on the government to extend the one-month exemption from fines it announced last week to allow domestic helpers with expired work and residency permits to rectify their legal status.

Mario Antonio, officer in charge and welfare officer at the embassy, said that many Philippine workers were unable to take advantage of the exemption because recruitment agents were demanding as much as JD4,000 in return for their passports.

“Many Filipinos who would like to benefit from the recent exemption decision reported to us that they could not process their documents because the recruitment agents are holding their passports,” Antonio said, adding that the embassy had held a meeting on Wednesday with representatives from the Domestic Helpers Recruitment Agencies Association and the labour ministry regarding the complaints.

He noted that 158 domestic helpers attended the meeting, adding that half of them expressed a desire to return to the Philippines, while others preferred to rectify their status and remain in Jordan.

“The association promised that they would call their member agencies to release the passports without payment,” Antonio said.

The embassy official also noted that the exemption period coincides with the winter holiday season, when many flights are fully booked and plane tickets are expensive, meaning that many workers who want to leave the country cannot do so.

The embassy appealed to the labour ministry representative who attended Wednesday’s meeting for an extension of the exemption period and handed over a list of names of those who want to leave but whose passports are being held by recruitment agencies, he added.

As for the workers who want to continue working in the Kingdom, Antonio said, the embassy is inviting them to a meeting on Sunday with their former employers and representatives from the ministry and the association in order to reach a compromise that meets the demands of all parties.