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| 16 February, 2018

Filipino community in call to protect rights of domestic workers

Philippines issued an employment ban of overseas Filipino workers in Kuwait

Filipino workers who were repatriated from Kuwait fill out labour-related papers upon arrival at Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Paranaque, Metro Manila in the Philippines February 12, 2018.

Filipino workers who were repatriated from Kuwait fill out labour-related papers upon arrival at Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Paranaque, Metro Manila in the Philippines February 12, 2018.

REUTERS/Erik De Castro

A call to ensure the rights of unskilled domestic workers in Gulf countries has been issued by the Filipino community.

It comes as the Philippines Department of Labour and Employment (DOLE) on Monday issued an employment ban of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Kuwait.

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte last Friday ordered OFWs to return home within 72 hours in the wake of the murder of Filipina Joanna Daniela Dimapilis, whose body was found last week inside a freezer in an apartment in Kuwait that had been abandoned by her employers in 2016.

Based on examination, Ms Dimapilis bore fatal stab wounds to the neck and torture marks across her body.

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However, DOLE spokesman Raul Francia explained that Mr Duterte’s order only covered workers who wished to return, distressed workers and the 2,000 who have already applied for amnesty.

Long-term Filipino resident Nestor Ballano, an engineer who has been in Bahrain for 38 years, supported calls to ban domestic workers from working in the GCC.

“The President’s decision is right and I personally support his decision,” he said.

“I’m not comparing the situation in Bahrain with the other GCC – here in (Bahrain) it’s much better.

“But the Kuwait incident, though rare, has been brutal and it is time to think if it’s worth the risk for domestic workers.

“They are paid so low in every GCC country and I think our government should ban unskilled and domestic aid to the GCC.

“Most of these OFWs are from remote provinces and they are illiterate and unaware of laws in the GCC.

“The government should also focus on equipping skilled workers to take up overseas jobs.”

In January, Manila announced a suspension of the deployment of workers to Kuwait following the death of seven Filipino domestic workers.

Details of the deaths have not been revealed yet, although Mr Duterte said last month that his country “lost four women” in Kuwait, adding that domestic workers were victims of abuse and had committed suicide.

“We definitely need to insist on tougher regulations for OFWs, which could include putting a ban on sending Filipino domestic workers to the Gulf, if needed,” said Filipino Club executive member and Pinoy Badminton Group president Rid Advincula.

“The government of Philippines should address this as a priority, as we now have a situation in hand.

“Filipinos have a problem with finding jobs in our country and this is what the government should primarily address.

“The government should develop job opportunities in our country so that the unskilled workers don’t have to take up jobs in foreign countries where they’re always exposed to exploitation.

“There should be bilateral talks between governments to ensure the safety of the OFWs.”

However, Philippines Ambassador in Bahrain Alphonso Ver said the working environment for maids differed in each Gulf state – adding that there was a demand for Filipino employees here.

“The ban is only on new recruitments in Kuwait,” he told the GDN.

“Those who are on vacation and are going back to the same employer are free to do that – this is what was announced by the DOLE.

“We cannot comment on (if the) decision will impact Bahrain or the larger GCC, as the employment situation is market-driven, and varies in each GCC.

“(Recruitment agencies) focus on each country depending on their market requirement and, as we know, there is demand for Filipinos in Bahrain.

“Moreover, the employment climate is good in Bahrain.”

Philippines Embassy labour attaché Vicente Cabe, who backed President Duterte’s ban, also said the situation in Kuwait could not be used to compare with Bahrain.

“So far the issue has been about Kuwait and there’s no mention of the other GCC states,” he said.

“The incident in Kuwait is a rare one, we cannot relate that to Bahrain where problems with OFWs are less compared to the rest of the GCC.

“We do receive complaints from domestic workers, mainly of non-payment of wages, verbal abuse, maltreatment and long working hours without weekly off.”

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