A Filipino migrants’ right group in the Middle East today urges President Benigno Simeon Aquino III to bring up OFW protection a focal point of discussion with the Kuwait Emir who is in the country for a 5-day state visit. The Kuwait’s Emir arrived Friday in Manila.
“We hope that Pres. Aquino III will grab this opportunity to discuss with his counterpart, the visiting Emir of Kuwait, to table and give priority discussing how to provide protection to our Filipino workers in Kuwait amid the rampant cases of abuse and labor malpractices especially among Filipino domestic workers,” said John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator.
Monterona noted that Kuwait, aside from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, remains to be among the mid-east countries where there are rampant abuses and malpractices committed against Asian migrant workers including OFWs,.
“Almost daily, we are receiving reports about abuses and labor malpractices coming from our fellow OFWs mostly domestic workers. There were cases of mysterious deaths recorded last year and the previous years in Kuwait,” Monterona lamented.
With an aim of sincerely providing protection to our OFWs in Kuwait, Monterona said Pres. Aquino III must bring to the attention of the visiting Emir of Kuwait the issue of OFWs protection and the ratification of the ILO Convention on Domestic Workers.
The International Labor Organization (ILO) deliberated and passed during a Convention last year binding principles and mechanisms that recognizes domestic workers rights and thereby provide them the needed protection while working overseas.
“Pres. Aquino is duty-bound to influence, if not, urge his counterpart the Kuwait’s Emir, that both country must ratify and signify the ILO Convention on Domestic Workers to be used as a framework in passing local legislation providing concrete mechanisms and protection to OFWs,” Monterona added.
Monterona added that the ratification of the ILO Convention on Domestic Workers serves as a “‘litmus’ test to sending government like the Philippines and migrant-host governments in the Middle East as there are millions of foreign domestic workers in the mid-east.
He cited, for instance, most of the Gulf Cooperating Council (GCC) member-countries have reservations in recognizing domestic workers’ alienable rights as a worker and a human being citing ‘customary practices and traditions’.
“Kuwait for example opposes the granting of day-off and the internationally recognized 8-hour work of domestic workers,” Monterona added.
On June 9, 2011, an official of Kuwait’s social affairs ministry had been quoted by Al-Qabas newspaper saying the granting of day-off and specific working hours to domestic workers “does not suit the habits, traditions and public ethics of Kuwait”. The Kuwaiti official added a maid during her day-off going to a place unknown to her sponsor is considered an offense to Kuwait’s public ethics.
“It has been known that other GCC countries and non-GCC governments also cited ‘preserving tradition and modesty of maids’ as reasons to restrict domestic workers freedom of movement and giving them day-off, among others,” Monterona noted.
Monterona said the rights of domestic workers should not be viewed as a ‘threat to host-countries tradition and customary laws.” “This could be harmonized by passing local laws that guarantees domestic workers rights while respecting the habits and traditions of the host country,” the Filipino migrant leader added.
“The slave-like view about domestic workers in the Middle East must be changed, first and foremost. This is what the ILO Convention on Domestic Workers had told the host governments including that in the Mid-east that domestic workers have rights too, rights that governments must recognize, guarantee and protect,” Monterona added.
“The passage of local legislation or policy recognizing domestic workers’ rights and welfare in the national level by the mid-east host governments must follow suit,” Monterona ended.
As per POEA records, there are around 400,000 OFWs in Kuwait, most of them domestic workers.
John Leonard Monterona
Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator