Pinoys petition ME HSW halt
Rise in abuse
KUWAIT CITY, July 17: Filipino community leaders in Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar, Oman, Jordan, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and State of Kuwait have joined hands and launched this week a petition appealing strongly to the Philippine government to immediately suspend the deployment of Filipino women as Household Service Workers (HSWs) to the Middle East due to the recent rise in the number of abuses committed against Filipino HSWs in Kuwait and various parts of the Middle East.
The petition addressed to Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, the House of Representatives, Department of Labour and Employment and Department of Foreign Affairs underscores the failure of the Philippine embassies, consulates and labour offices in these countries to address the welfare and concerns of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) due to inadequate manpower and resources as well as the absence of domestic laws for housemaids in Kuwait and the aforementioned countries.
In parallel to the on the ground campaign for the moratorium on the deployment of Filipino HSWs, an online petition was simultaneously launched on the change.org website and on the social networking site Facebook. Thousands of netizens mostly OFWs as well as advocacy groups in the Middle East have shared and supported the online petition to suspend the deployment of Filipino HSWs to the Middle East.
“It’s about time that the Philippine government stops the deployment of Filipino household service workers to Kuwait. Filipino women are being abused everyday. The Philippine Embassy cannot give us due protection and even police authorities here. We are being looked down just like that,” stated Ann Abunda, the President of Mga Oragon sa Kuwait and one of the prime movers of the petition. There are around 180,000 OFWs in Kuwait and over 80,000 of whom work as HSWs.
The moratorium petition outlines that these labourreceiving countries have not enacted laws to ensure the protection and rights of house workers; have not officially and transparently acknowledged the terms and provisions of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) standard employment contract for HSWs ; and do not have a clear, reliable and speedy adjudication system to resolve formal complaints of HSWs against erring employers or sponsors.
It also cited in the petition that in these countries, abuses against mostly Filipino women house workers abound from long-working hours, unpaid salaries, underpayment of salaries, bad living conditions, maltreatment, sexual assault and violence, physical cruelty, verbal ill-treatment, illegal work, illegal recruitment, false charges of theft, and other forms of exploitation resulting to hundreds and thousands of HSWs being stranded for weeks and months at the
various Filipino Workers Resource Centres (FWRCs). Some of them even go through the process of detention in deportation centres before their repatriation to the Philippines.
“I totally support the call for a moratorium. We are on the ground and we have seen and rescued numerous Filipina HSWs who were physically or sexually abused,” pointed out Hengie V Taton, an Emergency Medical Service nurse at the Ministry of Health and President of the Pinoy Ambulance Nurses in Kuwait (PANIK).
Meanwhile, the Pilipino sa Kuwait Facebook page which has over 70,000 members has been swamped by comments when the online petition was posted. “We call on everyone to support the moratorium. We thanked all those who have signed the petition. The Philippine government must heed our call and be moved with wisdom, good judgment and determination to muster the political will to, without delay, freeze the deployment of our women as household service workers (HSWs) to the Middle East and to put an end to this decades of vicious cycle of recruitment-deployment-abuse and until there be clear conditions that will ensure the welfare and protection of our women house workers,” stressed Eljan Embrado, the founder and administrator of Pilipino sa Kuwait.
In addition, the moratorium petition also mentions the “sex-for-flight-issue” launching a wild media chase against foreign service personnel which has shown that some of the Philippine government’s own recruits appear to have exploited HSWs under their care. Needless to say that government appointees tasked to serve the OFWs) are under attack. The Filipino leaders call for the swift punishment of those guilty personnel.
On the other hand, the Filipino Association of Secretaries of Employment Agencies in Kuwait (FILASEAK) has expressed strong opposition to the call for moratorium on the deployment of HSWs to Kuwait.
“Is this the solution to solve all cases in Kuwait? They should think first. How about our government? Can they provide decent jobs to thousands of Filipinos living in poverty? If they can provide better jobs in the Philippines, well and good, go ahead and stop the deployment. We are helping thousands of Filipinos go abroad to have a better future. Not all HSWs end up in miserable state. Alot have been successful and have a better life,” explained Lailah Venturina, the treasurer of the FILASEAK. She reiterated that it is the task of the Philippine government and the host government to meet and discuss the protection of expatriate workers.
“They should check the statistics first. How many HSWs have been successful abroad as opposed to those who suffered bad fate? Why let thousands of Filipinos who want to seek greener pasture abroad be stopped just because of the misfortune of a few?” stated a Filipino owner of a manpower recruitment agency who requested for anonymity.
Meanwhile, the Philippine Charge d’ Affaires Atty Raul H Dado told the Arab Times on Wednesday that they have been meeting with Kuwait government officials to bring to their attention the rising number of abuses committed against Filipino women in Kuwait and seek further assistance in the investigation and resolution of such cases.
“We spoke to the Kuwaiti authorities. We sent a diplomatic note to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to get their attention and their help in investigating these cases. We have our lawyers. We have our legal team. We have visited victims of these abuses in the hospitals. We’re filing cases. We are preparing legal strategies. We are doing the diplomatic and legal approaches so as not to cause more injustice or cause more unrest in the feelings of people. We are going through the proper legal system and not encourage revenge or for people to take any violent action,” stated Dado. He outlined the various cases of abuses and the most recent one, the case of the fitness instructor who was allegedly dragged by a police through a flight of stairs at the Kuwait Municipality (Baladia) in Sharq resulting in multiple injuries and fractures.
With regard to the ongoing moratorium campaign on the deployment of HSWs, Dado outlined that they are gathering all the documents, evidence and suggestions of the Filipino community leaders. “This is very interesting. Leaders are speaking. Democracy is at work. People are voicing out their concerns and their suggestions in a way to give justice to everyone. We’ve gathered all the suggestions and we will present them to the host government and the Philippines for further study or considerations of their options. It’s up to our central government on what to do with this matter. Things will be considered in a very professional and comprehensive way to give justice to everyone, not only to household service workers who have been abused but also to other key players in the environment,” he explained.