Migrante International to gov’t: Help OFWs sent home by Kuwait
Migrante International (MI) called on the Philippine government to provide immediate assistance to overseas workers sent back by Kuwait resulting from the ongoing dispute between the two governments.
MI reported that many overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) have been offloaded from their flights while others have been repatriated since the emirate halted the issuance of entry and labor visas to Filipinos effective May 10.
Since May 12, 78 OFWs have been repatriated and a reported 130 OFWs are stranded daily, MI said.
“Not allowed to enter Kuwait, they will not earn the salary that they would have sent to their families or used to start paying their debts,” MI said in a statement.
“We condemn the Kuwait government for sending back OFWs because it sees the Philippine government as abetting violations of labor agreements by providing shelters to distressed OFWs,” it added.
Kuwait’s First Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Talaal Al Khalid issued a circular May 10 announcing the ban and accusing the Philippines of failing to comply with a labor agreement between the two countries.
The 2020 agreement was signed after an OFW deployment ban to Kuwait was issued by the Philippine government after the deaths of domestic workers Joanna Demafelis and Jeanelyn Villaverde in 2018 and 2019, respectively.
The agreement commits both governments to ensuring the protection and welfare of Filipino workers.
According to media reports, Kuwait specifically complains of the existence of Philippine government-maintained shelters for “runaway OFWs.”
Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Eduardo de Vega told reporters that if the shelters are the issue, “…[T]hen it would be non-negotiable for the Philippines because we will not close down our shelters there since it is required under our law.”
MI said it agrees with the Philippine government in maintaining the shelters and should in fact expand the program.
“Domestic workers, who comprise a big chunk of OFWs in Kuwait, are most vulnerable to labor exploitation and sexual abuse and violence, especially in foreign lands,” MI said.
The group added that the Philippine government must also oppose the emirate’s kafala system that makes employers’ control over OFWs nearly absolute in order to uphold workers’ and migrants’ rights. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)