NY based Human Rights Watch calls PH and Kuwait to talk to prevent abuse of OFWs

NY based Human Rights Watch calls PH and Kuwait to talk to prevent abuse of OFWs

Is this not a clear case of interference in a purely internal matter?

Last month the President started to sound the alarm regarding the abuses done by Kuwaiti nationals as against Filipinos working in the gulf state. The tipping point was the report that happened to domestic worker Joanna Demafelis whose body was found inside a freezer in an abandoned apartment in Kuwait. The last time she was seen alive was in September of 2016. The President decided to have a total ban on deployment of our Overseas Filipino Workers to Kuwait.

In response Kuwait's Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Sabah al-Khalid al-Sabah slammed the Philippine President stating that the call to evacuate all Filipinos workers (mostly domestic workers)  from the gulf state could damage ties between the two countries. 
HRW calls for PH and Kuwait to fix gaps to prevent OFW abuses (photo credit to owner)

"We are surprised and we condemn statements from the Philippine president, especially as we are in contact with the Philippines on a high level to explain the workers' conditions in Kuwait," said the Kuwaiti official.

"Escalation does not serve the ties between Kuwait and the Philippines," Sheikh Sabah said, adding that 170,000 Filipinos "live a decent life in Kuwait ... but separate accidents unfortunately happen, and we are providing our Filipino counterparts with the results of the investigations."


“Of course, there are individual accidents that happen; however, we collaborate in the investigations with the Filipino authorities. So we are in direct communication,” the Kuwaiti foreign minister said.

Human Rights Watch weighs in

Human Rights Watch gave an unsolicited advice to the Duterte government that instead of imposing a total ban on employment on new workers bound to Kuwait, the country should work with the Gulf nation in trying to agree on new reforms that would protect the Filipino migrant workers.

HRW also reiterated that the imposition of a total ban on employment might result to unregulated entry of Filipino migrant workers into Kuwait.

“The Philippines should work with Kuwait to protect workers rather than ban them from migrating, which is more likely to cause harm than to help,” HRW Middle East researcher Rothna Begum said.   *

HRW pointed that the two countries should agree on a bilateral agreement which includes a standard contract, a system for rescuing workers in distress and investigating abuses and deaths and a requirement to inform the Philippines of any national arrested.

A requirement for employers who apply for work and residency permits for domestic workers to apply for authorization from the Philippine embassy must be also included in the agreement, HRW added. 

“While bilateral agreements have many limitations, they can be helpful when there is an agreed upon mutually enforceable employment contract that provides real protections, and effective complaint systems and investigation procedures,” Begum said.


HRW also suggested that the Philippine government should improve its monitoring of recruitment agencies to prevent them from deceiving workers.


“Both Kuwait and the Philippines have an opportunity to work together to increase protections for domestic workers and fix the gaps that are leaving workers vulnerable to extreme abuse,” Begum said. 

On the Kuwait side, HRW slammed the “kafala” system or the sponsorship system in the Middle East region , which forces workers to remain with abusive employers and punish those who try to escape. 

Under the "kafala" systems, migrant workers who flee their employers can be arrested and fined, imprisoned for up to six months, deported and barred from returning for at least six (6) years.  *

“The Kuwaiti government should fight the root cause of abuse of domestic workers—such as the ‘kafala’ system—before looking to recruit workers from other countries,” Begum said.

Report from Philstar








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