Kuwait condemns Manila ban on Filipino workers – Returnees face difficulties, delays at Ninoy Aquino Airport

KUWAIT CITY, Feb 13, (Agencies): Kuwait’s foreign minister on Tuesday condemned what he called an “escalation” by Manila after the Philippines expanded a ban on its nationals working in Kuwait. Manila on Monday announced a “total ban” on new employment in Kuwait, including Filipinos who had already obtained employment permits but had not yet left for the Gulf country.

The measure came after President Rodrigo Duterte angrily lashed out at Kuwait over reports of Filipino workers suffering abuse and exploitation. “This escalation will not serve the relationship between Kuwait and the Philippines,” Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Sabah told reporters in Kuwait City. “We condemn the statements of the Philippine president, especially since we are in contact with the Philippines at the highest level to fully explain the state of the Filipino workforce in Kuwait,” he said.

Duterte on Friday brandished photos purporting to show a Filipina maid found in a freezer, saying she had been “roasted like a pig”. He also alleged Arab employers routinely raped their Filipina workers, forced them to work 21 hours each day and fed them scraps.

He asked Kuwait: “Is there something wrong with your culture? Is there something wrong with your values?” Authorities say 252,000 Filipinos work in Kuwait, many as maids. They are among over two million employed in the region, whose remittances are a lifeline to the Philippine economy. Domestic workers in Kuwait are not covered by ordinary labour legislation.

The Kuwaiti government, represented by the Foreign Ministry, has resorted to all diplomatic channels concerning statements uttered by officials in the Philippines over Filipino manpower in the country, Kuwaiti Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs Anas Al-Saleh, said on Tuesday.

This came in a statement by Al-Saleh while commenting on a letter of MP Al-Humaidi Al-Subei concerning statement made by Philippines’ officials on the issue of Filipino domestic labor.

The MP asked that the committee on foreign affairs be tasked to discuss this matter to be followed by a report to be submitted to the parliament. The diplomatic channels taken by the government represented by the Foreign Ministry are long and have mechanisms and regulations, Al-Saleh said.

This subject began with a statement by the Philippines President on Jan 19 followed by other statements by other Philippines officials.

A statement was issued by Kuwaiti Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Al-Jarallah expressing his regret over the statements made by the Philippines President regarding the situation of the Filipino manpower in Kuwait, followed by a decision to suspend the employment of Filipino workers, Al-Saleh added. The Filipino community are appreciated like all other communities in Kuwait, Al-Saleh stressed. Among the remarks made according to the statement of the Deputy Foreign Minister, which was published by KUNA, that there are more than 270,000 people of the Filipino community are in Kuwait, and are treated well as other nationalities.

There are practices that are forbidden by law and the law applies to everyone, he added. Around 200 Filipinos with valid employment contracts in Kuwait, who were scheduled to fly back to their workplace Monday, faced difficulties and delays at Ninoy Aquino International Airport in the Philippines following the Philippine government’s declaration of ‘total deployment ban’ on the same day.

A report by ABS-CBN said this happened after the immigration and Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) decided not to issue clearances to these Filipino workers. Confusion and chaos engulfed the airport as the government staff assigned there were not sure if the ban applies to Filipino workers with valid work permits who went on vacation and were returning to Kuwait. After waiting for hours, workers were able to obtain the clearance and left for Kuwait at 9:00 pm Philippine time as the airport staff received a directive that the ban does not affect returning workers. Evangeline Daniel, one of the Filipino workers held up at the airport, pointed out there is no reason for her to leave her employer who treats her well.

In an interview with ABS-CBN, Daniel said she has been a household worker in Kuwait for seven years; asserting “They are good to me, so why should I look for another employer?” On the other hand, gulfnews.com has reported that MP Safa Al-Hashem intends to file a motion in the Parliament banning expatriates from recruiting household workers. Commenting on reports about the discovery of the body of a Filipina household helper in the freezer last week, Al-Hashem posted on Twitter: “All the problems we have are caused by their [expatriates] mistreatment of domestic helpers. The latest example is how an expatriate and his foreign wife killed their helper, placed her in a freezer and fled the country.”

Meanwhile, the Kuwaiti Cabinet has approved recommendations, issued by the housekeepers’ panel, allowing Al-Durra company to bring in workers from Indonesia, Bangladesh, Vietnam and Nepal, said the Minister of Commerce and Industry. Speaking at Tuesday’s parliamentary session, Khaled Al-Roudhan, also the Minister of State for Youth Affairs, indicated that the Cabinet had also recommended that delegations be sent to these countries to work out dispatch of the workers to Kuwait, rapidly.

One of the recommendations stipulates that the Foreign Ministry empower Al-Durra Company to open offices in several states. Minster Al-Roudhan, on Oct 23, announced government’s approval of forming the special committee, grouping representatives from the ministries of commerce, interior, foreign affairs, the Public Authority for Manpower, Al-Durra Company for domestic workers and Kuwait Housekeepers Union, to discuss payments for the house helpers and problems affecting Al-Durra Company.

Earlier Tuesday, a senior Kuwaiti official announced that Kuwait was resorting to all available diplomatic channels, in response to latest critical rhetoric uttered by officials in the Philippines regarding status of the Filipino workers in Kuwait.

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