Kuwait, Syria not safe for Overseas Filipino domestic workers, says migrant group

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Oct 15 2010

Reacting on the claim of the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) that Kuwait and Syria are among those countries considered “safe” work destinations for OFWs, an alliance of Filipino migrant rights group express its disagreement saying the RP government is “blinded by its own labor export program peddling OFWs, even in countries that could not guarantee OFWs protection and safety”.

Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator John Leonard Monterona said Migrante continuously receives numerous requests for assistance from OFWs working as domestic helpers and from their families in the Philippines pleading for assistance for their abused and maltreated OFWs.

On Tuesday (5 October) the DFA issued a statement saying that the department “has received certifications from 10 countries, namely: Cambodia, Timor-Leste, Kuwait, Laos, Myanmar, Ireland, Saipan, Norway, Syria and Vietnam. This will then be given to the POEA Governing Board.”

The DFA is referring to the required certification issued by the concerned RP ambassador in compliance of the requirement of the amended Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act or Republic Act 10022.
Concerned RP diplomatic post must issue an certifications that verify that these labor-receiving countries: (1) have existing labor and social laws protecting the rights of migrant workers; (2) have signed or ratified multilateral conventions, declarations, or resolutions relating to the protection of migrant workers; (3) have concluded a bilateral agreement or arrangement on the protection of the rights of overseas Filipino workers and; (4) are taking positive and concrete measures to implement the first three criteria.

Monterona said the inclusion of Kuwait and Syria in the list of “safe” countries for OFWs is ill-advised.
“This is misleading. How could you consider Kuwait and Syria as safe destinations for OFWs if on a daily basis we are receiving 2 to 3 average cases of OFWs abuses and maltreatment?” Monterona added.
Monterona said RP govt. declaring Kuwait and Syria safe for our OFWs is misleading as this is the same Kuwait and Syria where numerous cases of abuses, maltreatment, and labor malpractices have been committed against migrant workers, including OFW-domestic workers.

“How would the RP embassy explain why there is still a quite huge numbers of distress and run away OFWs victims of their employer’s abuses and labor malpractice seeking refuge from its Filipino Workers Resource Centers and their numbers are increasing?” Monterona averred.

Monterona said he is worried that just for the sake of issuing the certification as required by the amended Migrant Workers Act (R.A.10022), the safety and protection of OFWs in countries where there are rampant cases of abuses will again be compromised.

“Again, what we observe is that even the government is trying to circumvent the Migrant Workers law just to suit for its continued exportation of cheap human labor abroad even if there is no guarantee that OFWs well being and safety will be protected on countries of their destinations to work,” Monterona.

“If the present Aquino administration is not distributing land to the landless sans implementation of genuine agrarian reform and would not work for national industrialization, then there will be no jobs that can be created to absorb the millions of unemployed, then OFWs will be forced to seek employment abroad and an opportunist government will continue to exploit sending its cheap human labor abroad,” Monterona concluded.

Advancing the rights of migrant workers throughout the Middle East