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Friday, Feb 23, 2024

Philippines defends measures to protect workers in Kuwait

Philippines defends measures to protect workers in Kuwait

The Philippines government defended on Thursday its protection measures for migrant workers in Kuwait amid a diplomatic stalemate over an entry ban recently imposed on new hires.
More than 200,000 Filipinos, mostly women, work in Kuwait, which last week suspended the issuance of new visas for all those who did not already have residence permits — also tourists, students and businessmen.

Department of Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Eduardo de Vega said earlier this week the ban might have been a response to the Philippines’ decision to defer the deployment of household helpers to Kuwait following the murder of a Filipina maid in January.

Another issue was the Philippine Embassy’s shelter for runaway workers in Kuwait, which De Vega said was allegedly a violation of Kuwaiti laws.

A government delegation was in Kuwait this week to clarify the issues and address bilateral labor concerns, but the talks yielded no breakthrough.

“They insist we are violating their law. So status quo remains. We will need more talks in future,” De Vega told reporters in Manila.

“Our goal is a long-term solution ... This kind of long-term solution will not be achieved in one round of discussions.”

He added that embassy-run shelters to protect migrant workers are mandated by Philippine laws and it would be “dishonorable” to disregard them to convince another country to hire Filipino workers.

“The Filipino people have more dignity than that,” De Vega said.

In a joint statement issued by the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs and Department of Migrant Workers said that the Philippine delegation had “expressed its full respect for Kuwaiti laws and profound appreciation for the hospitality of its government and people” for hosting Filipino workers.

“On issues related to services being rendered to our migrant workers, the delegation explained that all actions taken by the Philippine Embassy and the Philippine government are solely to ensure the safety and welfare of our own nationals,” the statement said.

“Providing protection to a country’s citizens abroad is a well-established duty of consular offices under international law and conventions.”

There were more than 24,000 cases of violation and abuse of Filipino workers in Kuwait last year, according to Department of Migrant Workers data, a significant jump from 6,500 cases in 2016.

The murder of 35-year-old Jullebee Ranara, whose charred remains were discovered on a desert in Kuwait in late January, was not the first such incident prompting the Philippine government to scrutinize the situation of its nationals.

In 2018, the Philippines imposed a temporary worker deployment ban to Kuwait after the killing of a Filipina maid whose body was found in a freezer at an abandoned apartment.

In January 2020, another such ban was imposed after a Philippine household helper was tortured to death by her Kuwaiti employer. That ban was lifted after the employer was charged with murder and sentenced to death.

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