Advancing the rights of migrant workers throughout the Middle East

Filipina domestic helper in Kuwait seeks help via SMS

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Oct 26 2010

“Sir john please help me naka-kulong ako d2 sa rooftop ng bahay ng amo ko; ayaw nila ako i-return sa agency, wala ako kain dito please kunin nyo ako dito (Sir john please help me; I am locked up at the roof top of my employer’s house. They don’t want me to return to my agency; I haven’t eat until now please take me out here),” one of OFW Melanie Tanda’s text messages sent to John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator.

OFW Melanie Tanda, 36 years old from Mansilingan, Bacolod City, managed to sent short messages to Migrante’s Monterona last night pleading for assistance as she claimed that she has been abused and maltreated by her employer in Kuwait.

“On her short messages to me she claimed that she is not given food and water, and she has been locked up at her employer’s house at the roof top; no doubt she is being abused and maltreated,” Monterona said.

Today, 25 October, Monterona sent an email to RP ambassador to Kuwait Shulan O. Primavera, and officially endorses her case to its attention and prompt action.

“We are requesting your good office thru the RP embassy’s Assistance to the Nationals unit to arrange to rescue her from her employer as she has been abused and very worried of her situation,” Monterona on his letter sent to RP ambassador to Kuwait Shulan O. Primavera.

Monterona asked the RP ambassador to arrange and instruct his staff to call the abused OFW provided it is discretely done and not to inform her employer for OFW Tanda’s safety and security.

Monterona said Migrante officers in Kuwait will be informing her local recruitment agent, the Waleed Al Abdul Jader office, which office address is at Dasman Palace, Dasman studio. He is urging that the RP post in Kuwait may call its attention too so that she’ll be rescued from her employer’s house.

“We hope that by formally endorsing her case directly to your kind attention, it would merit your prompt action,” Monterona averred.

Kuwait, other mid-east countries as OFWs “safe destination”?

Meanwhile, Monterona scored the RP embassy in Kuwait for issuing a certification that Kuwait is an ‘OFWs safe destination’, saying “this certification is misleading and intended to circumvent the newly amended Migrant Workers law.”

The new Migrant workers law (Republic Act No.10022) requires a certification from RP embassies and consulates abroad that the OFWs host-receiving countries have met the following criteria before actual deployment of OFWs: 1) the receiving country has existing labor and social laws protecting the rights of workers, including migrant workers; 2) the country is a signatory to and has ratified multilateral conventions, declarations or resolutions related to the protection of workers, including migrant workers; 3) the receiving country has concluded a bilateral agreement or arrangement with the Philippine government on the protection of the rights of overseas Filipino workers.

“The criteria are actually pre-conditions set-forth by the law to ensure that OFWs well-being, rights and welfare are protected, respected and even promoted while working overseas amid the numerous OFWs cases of abuses, maltreatment and labor malpractices reported abroad especially in the Middle East,” Monterona added.

However, Monterona said upon its initial research it found out that most, if not all, of the Mid-east host and OFWs-receiving countries including Saudi Arabia, which is hosting about 1.2-M OFWs, does not meet the new Migrant workers law criteria for certification as stated above.

“Mid-east country has their own respective labor law, but notably it neither guarantee nor allowed unionism; even labor movements including migrant workers movement are prohibited and not recognized, thus mid-east governments are accused of being anti-labor,” Monterona added.

On the second criteria (the host & receiving country is a signatory to multilateral and international conventions, declarations of resolutions on the protection of migrant workers), Monterona have noted that most Arab states (with the exception of Syria) in the Mid-East have not ratified the United Nations Conventions on the Protection of Migrant workers and members of their Families which has been ratified by 20 states that took effect on 14 March 2003.

The countries that have ratified, as of March 2007, the UN Convention on the Protection of Migrant workers are Argentina, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Belize, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Chile, Colombia, East Timor, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Ghana, Guatemala, Guinea, Honduras, Kyrgyzstan, Lesotho, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Mexico, Morocco, Nicaragua, Peru, Philippines, Senegal, Seychelles, Sri Lanka, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkey, Uganda and Uruguay.

Notably, states that have ratified the Convention are primarily migrants-sending countries like Mexico and the Philippines.

Failure to get certification, does it mean that the Philippine govt. would stop sending OFWs in Saudi Arabia and other mid-east countries in accordance to the new Migrant workers law? “I don't think so,” Monterona replied.

“Tough at present the Philippine government has not yet concluded bilateral agreement or any arrangement with any OFWs' host & receiving Mid-east governments on the protection of the rights and well-being of OFWs, the Aquino administration could still work for such agreement if it has the political will to do so,” Monterona added.

Deployment dilemma

“If the Aquino administration would be 'lazy' forging a bilateral agreement protecting OFWs, for instance with Saudi government, then it would be facing a dilemma -between continued deployment of OFWs (countries without the required certification) and its constitutional duty to execute the law,” Monterona added.

Saudi Arabia is No.1 on Top 10 countries of destinations by the numbers of deployed land-basedd for new hires and re-hires with almost 300,000 OFWs deployed last year, citing the 2009 Overseas Employment Statistics by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).

There are about 1.2-M OFWs now working in Saudi Arabia, mostly domestic helpers and construction workers.

In 2009, OFWs from Saudi Arabia have sent a remittance totaling to almost $1.5-M, next to US and Canada. With an increase of OFW deployment, it is expected to reach $2-M remittance by the end of this year.

Other mid-east countries on the Top 10 OFWs destinations are UAE (rank #2), Qatar (rank #4), Kuwait (rank #6) and Bahrain (rank #10).

Advancing the rights of migrant workers throughout the Middle East