KUWAIT CITY, March 17, (Agencies): Kuwait and the Philippines have signed an agreement regulating some working conditions for domestic workers in the country, Kuwait’s state news agency KUNA reported on Saturday.
The deal may end a two-month crisis sparked by reports that abuse by employers in Kuwait had driven several Filipinos to suicide. The Philippines stopped sending workers to Kuwait in January after a Filipino migrant worker was found dead in a freezer, the latest incident in what Manila called a pattern of abuse in the Gulf state.
KUNA said a deal was signed in Manila on Friday after a meeting between a visiting Kuwaiti delegation and Filipino authorities. “The deal will ensure the rights of both employers and employees,” KUNA quoted Foreign Ministry Undersecretary for Consulate Affairs Sami Al-Hamad as saying.
Al-Hamad said the two sides agreed that domestic workers from the Philippines will have the right to retain their passports as well as the right to refuse being transferred to other employers. There was no immediate comment from the Philippines government.
Workers in many Gulf states are employed under the Kafala (sponsorship) system, which gives employers the right to keep their passports and full control over their stay in the country. Rights groups say this system leaves millions of workers in the Gulf region open to exploitation
The delegation asked that hiring domestic Filipino workers resume at Kuwaiti agencies, KUNA said. There are more than 250,000 Filipinos in Kuwait, the Philippine foreign ministry estimates, with most working as domestic helpers. There are also large numbers in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
About a tenth of the Philippines 100 million people work abroad to provide for families back home. Last year, those workers sent home more than $31 billion, accounting for 10 percent of the country’s gross domestic product. The Hawally Prosecution has meanwhile released without bail the Kuwaiti police officer whose runaway Filipina housemaid had accused him of torturing her, reports Al-Anba daily.
The release came after defense lawyers said sponsor has requested the concerned authorities to refer the domestic helper to Forensics to identify the nature of the injuries saying their client has nothing to do with the burn marks and injuries on her body.
The housemaid claimed she was tortured and burned with cigarette butts while the defence attorneys claim their client does not even smoke. The defense lawyers also claimed the maid could have left any time if she wanted because she was never locked inside the house, unlike what the maid said that she escaped when she was at a camp with the sponsor family.