Philippines in talks with Kuwait over visa suspension for Filipinos
The Philippine government said on Wednesday it was in talks with Kuwait to seek a resolution over recent labor and travel issues, after the Gulf state suspended the issuance of new visas for Filipinos.
The Philippines has been working on tackling issues concerning its migrant workers in Kuwait, sparked by the gruesome murder of domestic worker Jullebee Ranara that prompted Manila to suspend the deployment of first-time workers to the Arab nation in February.
A Philippine delegation is in Kuwait this week to discuss bilateral labor concerns and seek clarification over Kuwait’s visa suspension that was announced last week.
“Talks are resuming today,” the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs’ Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Eduardo De Vega told Arab News.
“What we’re bringing on the table is a reassurance that we want to resolve pending issues for the benefit of our workers and the mutual benefit of both countries.”
The Philippines wants to hear the Kuwaiti side while also explaining its stance on the ongoing issues, “so that we could lift the suspension” on first-time worker deployment to Kuwait, De Vega said.
“We want to settle these differences and we don’t want this as a permanent thing,” he added.
“We expect not a resolution this week, but that there are some positive signs that we could continue talking in the future until we are able to bridge the gap or resolve what they need and resolve what we need from them, like improvement of the conditions of our workers.”
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.
Ranara’s murder, with her charred remains discovered on a desert in Kuwait in late January, was not the first such incident involving Filipinos in the country.
In 2018, the Philippines imposed a worker deployment ban to Kuwait after the killing of domestic helper Joanna Daniela Demafelis, whose body was found in a freezer at an abandoned apartment. The ban was partially lifted the same year after both countries signed a protection agreement for workers.
The Philippines again imposed a worker deployment ban in January 2020, following the killing of Constancia Lago Dayag and Jeanelyn Villavende, who was tortured to death by her employer. That ban was lifted after Kuwaiti authorities charged Villavende’s employer with murder and sentenced her to hanging.
The latest Philippine ban was imposed “because somebody was killed,” De Vega said.
“There is a national integrity at stake ... that’s why we did it.”