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Kuwait ready to follow up on problems – Sides agree to push for end to ban

File Photo of Philippine Ambassador Renato Pedro Villa

KUWAIT CITY, Jan 21, (Agencies): The Foreign Ministry summoned on Sunday ambassador of the friendly state, the Philippines, Renato Pedro Villa, to the State of Kuwait, Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Sulaiman Al-Jarallah announced.

The Filipino envoy met at the ministry building with the assistant foreign minister for consular affairs, who notified the ambassador about Kuwait’s regret and bewilderment toward his president’s decision to suspend dispatch of laborers to Kuwait. Such a stance contradicts nature of the distinctive ties between the two countries and does not serve their common interests.

Deputy Foreign Minister Al-Jarallah added that the Kuwaiti side made it known to the ambassador that freedoms and rights enjoyed by the expatriate communities in the country contributed to lifting the number of the Filipino workers to 276,000. Status of the workers in Kuwait cannot be assessed according to individual cases that are common in other nations.

Moreover, the Kuwaiti side expressed readiness to host Filipino diplomats to discuss conditions of the community and follow up on Filipinos’ problems. Al-Jarallah added that the envoy was asked to seek to lift the ban. The Filipino envoy praised the cooperation the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and pledged to recommend to his government to end the ban soon.

Al-Jarallah also noted that the State of Kuwait to the Philippines, Musaed Al-Thuwaikh, would meet on Monday with the Filipino foreign minister and other officials as part of the Kuwaiti efforts in this respect.

Meanwhile, Director of Domestic Workers Affairs Department at the Ministry of Interior Mohammed Al-Ajmi said the law that was put in place to organize the domestic labor has addressed many issues and closed the gaps which were exploited by the international and human rights organizations as a tool to discredit Kuwait, reports Al-Anba daily.

Al-Ajmi stressed the law has approved a minimum wage and the number of hours a domestic worker is liable to work. The law also forbids holding on to the passports of workers, provided shelter for domestic helpers who are willing to return home and so on.

Al-Ajmi told the daily the Domestic Workers Department is supported by the Assistant Undersecretary for Nationality and Passport Affairs at the Ministry of Interior, Major-General Sheikh Mazen Al-Jarrah and Director- General of Residence Affairs Major-General Talal Ma’arafi.

“Under the law the concerned department is tasked with studying complaints filed by workers and in 2017, the Department received about 2,250 complaints which were looked into and 367 of them were referred to the court which helped sponsors to recover KD 562,971 from the domestic labor recruitment offices and KD 193,000 dues were paid to the domestic workers,” Al-Ajmi added.

In response to what was stated by the Human Rights Organization that the sponsors who hold on to the passports of workers escape punishment, Al-Ajmi pointed out the report is incorrect because Law No. 68/2015 imposes penalty on those who retain passports of domestic workers by blocking them from recruiting workers in future.

He affirmed the department plays its humanitarian role and does not prevent any female domestic from returning home, if she desires. He also said before the departure the department ensures the maid’s financial dues are settled by obligating the sponsor to pay.

He added the department over a three-year period (2015, 2016 and 2017) has facilitated the travel of 2,965 domestic helpers, including 556 Filipinas. He pointed out, the domestic labor law has set 12 hours work a day for maids interspersed with hours of rest more than 3 hours and in case of any excess in this regard they are allowed to file complaints which are dealt with very seriously by the authorities.

Al-Ajmi revealed a representative from the Philippine Embassy is present almost daily at the management of domestic workers to view and follow up complaints and also facilitate the departure of Filipino workers wishing to return home. He said the decision of the Philippine authorities to stop sending workers to Kuwait was based on false information from unauthorized and unlicensed human rights organizations from the Kuwaiti authorities.

He said the Philippine Embassy is in regular contact with the Department of Domestic Workers Affairs and the Consul-General of the Philippines, during the last meeting, reported there were only 120 domestic workers who wanted to go home, not 400, as has been rumored. He also said after completing the formalities 37 of them has left the country after getting all their financial dues.

Al-Ajmi confirmed Kuwait will continue to welcome all expatriates and provide them safety and security, irrespective whether they are domestic workers or otherwise. He pointed out the department has organized campaigns to inspect the domestic workers offices to ensure they comply with the law and has until date shut down 82 offices for violating the laws. Meanwhile, several owners of domestic labor offices said they had appealed more than once to the concerned authorities on the importance of finding solutions to the problems of domestic workers by designating an ‘urgent’ court to look into the complaints of domestic workers.

The Philippine government had threatened three months ago to stop sending Filipino workers if the Kuwaiti government fails to take effective action and solve the problems of its workers in Kuwait, said Ali Al- Marzouq, owner of one of the offices. He pointed out several owners of recruitment offices volunteered and took the initiative to meet with the Philippine Minister of Labor to know the reason why the government of the Philippines was threatening to stop sending maids to Kuwait and the meeting resulted in the postponement of the issue until this week when the Philippines authorities said enough is enough.

Al-Marzouq stressed on the importance of reconsidering the issues that are at the bottom of the crisis, especially the revision of the recruitment law as an integral part of the problem not just with the government of the Philippines but also the other countries. He pointed out the provision of preventing re-employment in case of unwillingness to continue with the sponsor, whether workers are right or wrong, is a decision that oppresses the workers and drives them back to their country because they have no freedom of choice.

Al-Marzouq called for the need to issue legislation requiring the sponsor to issue a special clearance for the worker before leaving. He explained recently, the office owners had discovered that some of the sponsors had forced workers to travel to their country without the knowledge of the embassy or the office, not paid their salaries and other financial dues following which the returning maids filed lawsuits in the Philippines against the offices which had hired them and accused them of cancelling their residence permits without their knowledge and not paying them their dues. Al-Marzouq stressed on the importance of the concerned authorities to prevent the transfer the residence permit to another sponsor without the approval of the office, calling it a very bad phenomenon which has surfaced very recently as a result of which trading in domestic workers has flourished.

In conclusion, Al-Marzouq said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs should open new doors to bring domestic workers to Kuwait through the protocols of cooperation and agreements with labor exporting countries such as Indonesia, India, Ethiopia, Nepal and Vietnam, especially that these workers have already been tested and proved their ability and adaptability to work in Kuwait. Former MP Kamel Al-Awadhi said the decision by the Philippine President to ban sending labor to Kuwait is part of a war waged by office owners and visa traders against the Kuwaiti people and the Al-Durra Company lost in this war.

Al-Awadhi added, the Philippine President must know that Kuwait is distinguished for the manner it deals with domestic workers. The Philippine domestic workers crisis in Kuwait is not the first of its kind, reports Al-Rai daily. The daily added, this crisis has cropped up several times on various occasions.

The most prominent was a statement issued by the Philippines Ministry of Labor in January 2017, about a year ago, to suspend sending workers to Kuwait following the execution of a Filipino woman who was convicted of killing the daughter of her sponsor.

The issue escalated following a presidential statement from Manila asking about the death of Marife Librada, sister of comedian Romeo Librada, known as Super Tekla. On Dec 29, Marife Librada, a domestic worker who arrived in Kuwait in February 2017, was said to have committed suicide after she was found hanging in her room.

On Tuesday, Romeo Librada uploaded a video on Facebook with an appeal to the Philippine Embassy in Kuwait to investigate the death of his sister. The brother said he regrets not contacting his sister after she posted on her Facebook account the ‘last smile, goodbye’. Her death received wide coverage from the media in the Philippines.

On the other hand, the Al-Jarida daily said, the Philippines Foreign Ministry has summoned the Kuwaiti Ambassador in Manila Musaed Al- Thwaikh on the background of the ongoing labor dispute between Kuwait and the Philippines without giving more details. The decision by the government of the Philippines recently to suspend recruitment of Filipinos to Kuwait has cast its pall on the recruitment offices amid fears the move could be ‘disastrous’ for them.

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