KUWAIT CITY, Jan 14: The issue of Filipino workers has come to the fore again after the decision of the Philippines to ban the deployment of domestic workers to Kuwait due to the death of Jeanelyn Padernal Villavende.
Jeanelyn allegedly died on December 29, 2019 in the hands of her sponsors at Sulaibikhat (according to Manila’s claim). It is noteworthy the Philippines had taken a similar decision in 2018 when the body of a Filipina maid was found inside an abandoned apartment, which led to the signing of an agreement for domestic labor deployment in May 2018 between both countries.
A clause of the agreement stipulates that Kuwaitis who commit crime against Filipinos will be handed over to the government of Philippines to prosecute them in any country across the world.
The agreement is yet to be activated, because Kuwait had raised objection to the aforementioned clause, which it considered a violation of the country’s sovereignty. The connection between banning the deployment of workers to Kuwait in both instances indicates the same decision will be taken if a similar incident happens again and both governments are unable to resolve the issue at the governmental level.
However, it is a different ballgame at the level of Filipino workers. Statistics indicate that 241,000 Filipinos are currently working in Kuwait, of which 160,000 are domestic workers, and they remitted $507.04 million from January to August 2019- as gathered from the Central Bank of Philippines.
Meanwhile, Director of the Expatriate Labor Shelter affiliated to Public Authority for Manpower (PAM) Ali Shedad Al-Mutairi affirmed that the center was established to take care of medical, psychological and legal services free of charge for expatriate workers who are there from their various embassies or the Domestic Labor Department. He said the center was adjudged the best in the Middle East in terms of services rendered, in addition to social and psychological rehabilitation, coupled with services offered in cooperation with the Ministries of Interior, Justice and Foreign Affairs.
He explained that the center provides meals for inmates based on their nationalities, while all of them have access to medical services around the clock. It is noteworthy that inmates who suffer chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension are monitored with free medication. He indicated some of them are there with their children, so special attention is given to the children, especially those who need vaccines. He informed that 118 inmates are currently in the center and the place is large enough to cater for 500 people from different nationalities, while the department is in consistent contact with various embassies to ensure proper care for their citizens.
Al-Seyassah approached several Filipino workers to chat about the reality of their lives, especially Filipinas found at the government shelter, so they could talk about their sufferings in the hands of sponsors.
The respondents expressed satisfaction being in Kuwait and refused to generalize all Kuwaitis for what is happening, because they consider the country as their source of livelihood. Many of them said they’re able to get their rights without facing any problems at their places of work or in the society.
They affirmed that working in Kuwait is relatively great compared to other countries they previously worked, adding they love it here because there is no discrimination in the markets or other places. One of the respondents Orland Cortez affirmed that he has been working in Kuwait for almost four years at a Filipino restaurant without facing any problem. He spoke glowingly of the wonderful treatment that makes him appreciate Kuwaitis in particular and Arabs in general.
In her response, a Filipina called Lumen said she has been working in Kuwait for 30 years without facing any serious problem. She stated that Kuwaiti government protects the rights of everybody, and Filipino workers do not have any specific problems. She indicated that the manner in which sponsors deal with their workers depend on individual differences, which is the same thing in the Philippines where good and bad people can be found. “If you work well for your sponsor, he will be nice to you and reverse is the case,” she emphasized.
As for Emma Ines, she has been working in Kuwait for 10 years without having issues with anybody. She observed that Kuwaitis and the entire society do not discriminate in dealing with citizens and expatriates. She stressed that nobody can detect differences in nationalities while visiting public places such as restaurants, public parks and markets due to the heterogeneous mode of interaction. She pointed out that “there would be special places allotted for citizens in other countries but it does not happen in Kuwait.”
Mariz, who has been working for 10 years in Kuwait’s private sector, described the experience at her place of work in the airport as excellent. She stressed that people of this country are wonderful, adding “I would have returned home if things were the opposite.” A relatively new woman in Kuwait who has spent only one year and three months in the country, Annie Banadem, said the situation has been encouraging and fantastic as a domestic worker. She compared the situation to her experience in other countries where she worked in the past. She is scared to be sent back home after completing the year’s agreement.
By Fares Al-Abdan