Ban on OFWs to Kuwait may worsen problem, group warns
AN INTERNATIONAL human rights group has warned that banning Filipino migrant workers from employment in Kuwait may lead to more abuses when workers resort to unsafe, unregulated channels to enter that country.
In a statement by Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Wednesday, Rothna Begum, the group’s women’s rights researcher for the Middle East and North Africa, said: “The Philippines should work with Kuwait to protect workers rather than ban them from migrating, which is more likely to cause harm than to help.”
She added that “Kuwait should confront the outcry over deaths, beatings, and rapes of domestic workers by taking immediate steps to reform the ‘kafala’ system, which traps workers with abusive employers.” As HRW defines Kuwait’s kafala, or sponsorship, system, it ties migrant domestic workers’ visas to their employers, prohibiting workers from leaving or changing jobs without their employers’ consent.
President Rodrigo R. Duterte had ordered a total deployment ban on Filipino workers to Kuwait and repatriated Filipino migrant workers there, following reports of abuse of these workers, including Joanna D. Demafelis whose body was found inside a freezer after more than a year. Ms. Demafelis’ remains arrived in Manila last Friday.
On the face of Mr. Duterte’s ban on Filipino workers to Kuwait, HRW noted that Kuwait has authorized state-owned recruitment agency Al Durra Recruitment Company to look for workers from Indonesia, Vietnam, Bangladesh, and Nepal instead.
HRW in its statement also cited the Philippines as “a leader in protecting its domestic workers in the Middle East.”
“Philippine embassies verify contracts to check that employers commit to paying a monthly minimum wage of $400 and have requirements for agencies to pay for return flight tickets home for abused workers,” the group said. But it added that “these work best for migrants arriving through a regulated channel.”
Ms. Begum, for her part, called on Kuwait and the Philippines to sign a bilateral agreement that would help promote the rights of migrant workers in Kuwait.
HRW cited a number of recommendations that should form part of that agreement, including increased oversight and effective monitoring of recruitment agencies and an expedited complaints process. —