Filipino domestic workers to return Kuwait next week

MANILA: Domestic helpers from the Philippines will be allowed to travel to Kuwait starting next week, Philippines government officials have announced. “Deployment guidelines will come out next week. Skilled workers can fly to Kuwait anytime but the household service workers can fly next week, pending their visa application approval,” said Philippines Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III during a senate hearing in the Philippines capital yesterday.

New guidelines for the deployment of household service workers to Kuwait will also be issued. A total ban on the deployment of Filipino workers to Kuwait was lifted May 16, following the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the two countries regarding the employment conditions and protection for domestic workers. The agreement ended a two-month crisis sparked by reports that abuse by employers in Kuwait had driven several Filipinos to suicide. The Philippines stopped sending workers to Kuwait in January after the body of a Filipina maid, Joana Demafelis was found in a freezer – the latest incident in what Manila called a pattern of abuse of domestic helpers in Kuwait.

Kuwait Foreign Ministry official said the two sides agreed that domestic workers from the Philippines will have the right to retain their passports as well as the right to refuse being transferred to other employers. A Filipino request to obtain any criminal records that employers might have was denied, because Kuwaiti authorities will not allow anyone with a record to recruit workers, said the foreign ministry official. The official affirmed that the Kuwaiti side requested that the doors for labor recruitment should be reopened for Kuwaiti agencies, especially the government-backed Al-Durra company.

He assured that those interested in employing domestic workers will be able to do so by paying reasonable fees. Workers in many Gulf states are employed under the kafala (sponsorship) system, which gives employers the right to keep their passports and full control over their stay in the country. Rights groups say this system leaves millions of workers in the Gulf region open to exploitation. There are more than 260,000 Filipino workers in Kuwait, 170,000 of whom are domestic helpers. Of the household workers in Kuwait, less than 2% experienced abuse, said Bello.

This article was published on 23/05/2018