Duterte orders work ban for Kuwait – Ban does not affect workers already here

KUWAIT REGRETS REMARKS BY PHILIPPINES PRESIDENT

File photo of Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte AFP

MANILA, Jan 20, (Agencies): President Rodrigo Duterte has banned Philippine citizens from travelling to Kuwait to work following reports of widespread abuse and exploitation, his spokesman said Saturday. Duterte ordered the ban after reports emerged about the deaths of several Filipina women, his spokesman Harry Roque said. “In line with his presidential pronouncement, Labour Secretary Silvestre Bello has ordered the suspension of the deployment of workers to Kuwait,”

Roque told reporters. “There is really excessive suffering over there,” Roque said, adding that the ban was “long overdue”. An estimated 10 million Filipinos work overseas and the money they send home is a major pillar of the Philippine economy. It was not immediately clear how long the ban, which does not affect workers already in Kuwait, would last.

In his speech before overseas workers on Thursday, Duterte said he would urge the Kuwaiti government to act against the abuses. “My advice is, we talk to them, state the truth and just tell them that it’s not acceptable anymore. Either we impose a total ban or we can have (disagreements),”

Duterte said. “I do not want a quarrel with Kuwait. I respect their leaders, but they have to do something about this,” he added. Spokesmen for the Kuwaiti embassy in Manila could not be reached for comment. Kuwait has faced criticism in the past over its “kafala” system for foreign workers which has been likened to a form of bonded labour or even slavery.

The kafala system prevents workers from moving to a new job before their contracts end without their boss’s consent, resulting in a wide range of abuses.

Kuwait is a major destination for migrant workers with the Kuwaiti government estimating that more than 170,000 Philippine nationals live there. Other groups have far higher estimates.

Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Al-Jarallah on Friday regretted remarks made by the Filipino president regarding his nation’s community in Kuwait. Affirming that the two countries have maintained distinguished ties, Al-Jarallah indicated that his department had immediately contacted the Philippines’ authorities to determine motives behind the president’s statement and refute the erroneous information in it.

Number of the Filipinos in Kuwait has exceeded 170,000, thus the four cases mentioned in the president statement “cannot be used as a criterion to assess the overall status of the Philippines’ laborers in the country,” he said. Legal measures had been taken against the four Filipinos, Al- Jarallah added.

Kuwait enjoys “a bright image on treating the expatriate workers and has laws that preserve their rights and organize their relations with the employers,” the deputy foreign minister said. Kuwait’s laws and regulations protect the expatriates against any attacks or abuse and this fact has turned it into a favored place for work for various peoples.

In reaction to the statement made by Duterte to impose a total ban on sending workers to Kuwait because of sexual abuses, the Director-General of the General Department for Residence Affairs Major-General Talal Marafie said majority of the problems and crimes against the Filipino community in Kuwait are individual, according to the local press.

Marafie added if such crimes are discovered or if any Filipino filed a complaint, the security authorities investigate the complaints and refer these complaints to courts. Marafie added the Interior Ministry is monitoring all offices of domestic workers and those which are found to be in violation of the law are immediately shut down.

Marafie wondered if the Philippine Embassy in Kuwait saw any shortcomings on the part of the security authorities to look into complaints filed by the Filipino community in Kuwait, especially the police stations, the Domestic Labor Department, the Criminal Investigation Department or other security departments of the Interior Ministry. He added all the security agencies are doing their job to protect all communities in Kuwait, including the Filipinos.

He pointed out security services are accurate monitoring everything in the country. Any complaints related to domestic employment are referred to the courts, especially those filed by the Philippine Embassy and these complaints are being looked into with utmost care without negligence or failure on part of the authorities. He stressed all complaints filed by the Philippines Embassy or the domestic workers themselves are referred to the concerned authorities and are tackled according to the law of the land either through settlement out of court or through the Kuwaiti judiciary.

Marafie went on to say the problems and crimes, if any, are a small percentage for the Filipino community. He pointed out such occurrences — crimes of such nature happen all over the world without exception. Meanwhile, the head of the Parliamentary Human Rights Committee, Dr Adel Al-Damkhi, said both the Committee and the National Assembly give special importance to human rights issues in the country. He added, specific or individual cases should not be generalized because Kuwait is a land of law. MP Saleh Ashour said he had earlier warned on taking the Philippine President’s statement seriously when he had on earlier occasion threatened to stop domestic labor to Kuwait. Ashour stressed any decision taken by the Philippines President will inevitably lead to rise in prices of labor recruitment to KD 2,000 and increase the burden on the citizens. Ashour asked: “Where is Al-Dura Company, whose establishment was approved to bring domestic labor from abroad?” The Al-Rai daily quoted Ashour as saying, “Most countries have decided not to send domestic workers to Kuwait including Indonesia, Ethiopia, Bangladesh and India.”

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