Kuwait won’t bend to ‘unrealistic’ requests

KUWAIT CITY, Feb 22, (Agencies): The recent statements from Manila will not pressure Kuwait into accepting unrealistic requests, reports Al- Qabas daily quoting governmental sources.

They explained that Kuwait is a state of law and it will not change its laws, as they uphold the rights of expatriate workers without any form of discrimination or bias towards any expatriate community.

Other Arab countries witness higher number of suicide cases among the Filipino community but the reaction of the government of the Philippines was not as tough as its reaction towards Kuwait.

The sources said, “Many cases of injustice and deceit are caused by offices that are located in the Philippines. It is not fair that the complaints that target these offices in the Philippines are registered against Kuwait”.

Meanwhile, Al-Rai daily reported that the Central Bank of Kuwait issued a report which revealed that the remittances sent by Filipino expatriates to their country reduced by 5.9 percent in 2017.

According to the report, the total remitted amount in 2017 was $806 million, making Kuwait the fourth highest Gulf country in terms of value of remitted money to the Philippines. The list is topped by the United Arab Emirates among the Gulf countries.

The Filipino expatriates in the UAE remitted a total of $2.54 billion in 2017 with an average increase of 17.8 percent compared to the money remitted from Kuwait. Saudi Arabia came second with $2.5 billion. Money remitted from Oman reduced by 16.3 percent, reaching $345 million.

The amount remitted from Qatar increased by 4.9 percent, reaching $1.1 billion. Total remitted amount from Bahrain increased by 30.8 percent, reaching $229 million. The report revealed that the total amount remitted by Filipino expatriates in 2017 was $31.3 billion.

The Philippine president said Thursday that a ban on the deployment of workers to Kuwait, where a Filipina was found dead in a freezer, will continue and could be expanded to other countries where Filipino workers suffer “human degradation.” Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte made the remarks after attending the wake of Joanna Demafelis in the central Philippine town of Sara. He said he intends to file criminal charges against her employers, who are being hunted by Kuwaiti authorities. Demafelis’s body was found stuffed in a food freezer on Feb 6 in a Kuwait City apartment where it had reportedly been kept for more than a year.

Duterte has said her body bore torture marks and there were indications she was strangled. “The ban stays, no deployment of Filipinos whatsoever in Kuwait,” Duterte said outside the wake, where steamers and shirts worn by mourners bore messages demanding justice for the maid’s death.

The ban applies only to new Kuwait-bound workers and the thousands already there, mostly maids, can continue working. Duterte said the government is conducting an assessment to “find out the places where we deploy Filipinos and our countrymen suffer brutal treatment and human degradation.” Her death is the latest overseas tragedy to befall workers from the Philippines, a major labor exporter with about a tenth of its more than 100 million people working abroad.

The workers have been called the country’s heroes because the income they send home has propped up the Southeast Asian nation’s economy for decades, accounting for about 10 percent of its annual gross domestic product.

Duterte talked with the family of Demafelis and then briefly viewed her remains, gently touching her coffin with his hand. Philippine officials are under increasing pressure to do more to monitor the safety of the country’s worldwide diaspora of mostly maids, construction workers and laborers. Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III told a Senate hearing Wednesday that he has recalled three Filipino labor officers from Kuwait to face an investigation. They failed to act on a request by Demafelis’s family for help after she went missing in January last year, he said.

Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration reported that at least 196 Filipinos had died in Kuwait in the last two years, mostly for unspecified medical reasons but also four who committed suicide. That prompted senators to ask why labor officials did not immediately order a ban on the deployment of workers to Kuwait with the spike in deaths.

A Philippine labor delegation left for Kuwait on Thursday to seek better protection for Filipino workers that may prompt the Duterte administration to lift its ban, officials said. They will demand a stop to the practice of many Kuwaiti employers to hold on to the passports, travel papers and cellphones of Filipino maids, which has prevented them from reporting abuses and calling for help, the officials said. Kuwait’s ruling Amir has reportedly invited Duterte to his country next month to resolve the labor issues but Duterte has not said whether he will visit.

The sheer number of Filipino workers abroad makes monitoring their wellbeing an overwhelming task. That is often complicated by workers not having proper travel and work documents, such as in Kuwait, where nearly 11,000 of the more than 252,000 Filipino workers are in the country illegally or are not properly authorized.

Many desperate Filipinos have also chosen to stay in countries where the Philippines has banned Filipinos in the past, such as in war-torn Iraq and Syria. Duterte said on Thursday he would extend his ban on sending workers to Kuwait to include other countries if investigations showed Filipinos were being seriously abused by employers elsewhere.

The Southeast Asian country has suspended the deployment of workers to the Gulf state since last month after Duterte said the abuse was unchecked and had driven several Filipino domestic helpers there to suicide. “We are doing an audit now (to) find out the places where we deploy Filipinos and our countrymen suffer brutal treatment and human degradation,” Duterte said in the central province of Iloilo. He was visiting the wake of a Filipino whose body was found this month in a freezer at an abandoned apartment in Kuwait, with signs of torture.

The killing was the final straw for Duterte, who asked commercial airlines to help the voluntary repatriation of workers from Kuwait. The Philippine Senate began an inquiry on Wednesday into deaths and abuse of Filipino workers. More than 2 million Filipinos are working in Kuwait and other Middle East countries, including Qatar, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, but many cases of abuse have also been reported elsewhere.

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