Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday said a temporary ban blocking Filipinos from seeking work in Kuwait is now permanent. “The ban stays permanently. There will be no more recruitment for especially domestic helpers. No more.”
Well over half of the 260,000+ Filipinos working in Kuwait are domestic workers.
The ban to which Duterte is referring was imposed in February following reports of suspicious deaths of Filipino workers in Kuwait – including the murder of a maid whose body was found inside a freezer with signs of torture. The ban came alongside a “rescue” operation in which officials from the Philippine Embassy in Kuwait helped thousands of Filipino workers escape their employers in Kuwait.
Kuwait condemned the action as a violation of state law and responded by expelling the Filipino ambassador and withdrawing its envoy from Manila.
The two nations had been in the midst of negotiating a deal that could result in the lifting of the ban, but it is unclear now whether that deal will come to pass.
Duterte on Sunday described the treatment of Filipino workers in Kuwait as a “calamity” and offered to finance the return of any workers wishing to escape abusive treatment. “I would like to address to their patriotism: come home,” said Duterte. “No matter how poor we are, we will survive. The economy is doing good and we are short of our workers.”
Duterte said he would provide financial aid and job opportunities for overseas workers (known as OFW) when they return home, but critics insist the government has no way to do this.
Duterte’s request is “reckless, shortsighted, and uncaring,” argues Senator Risa Hontiveros. “President Duterte should stop gambling with the lives and employment of thousands of OFWs, and the welfare of their families, in a desperate attempt to break the diplomatic impasse” with Kuwait.
About 10 million Filipinos work abroad, and the money they send home is a big part of the island’s economy.
“We cannot expect our OFWs to come home if the root cause of their migration – poverty due to landlessness and lack of decent jobs – still exists and is actually worsening,” said Filipino migrant organization “Migrante International.”
Kuwait’s Foreign Ministry on Monday said it was ready to cooperate with the Philippines, but would “act decisively” against any further breaches of its sovereignty.
Author’s Note: The number one export of the Philippines is people; they have workers all over the world. Unfortunately, this arrangement leaves them vulnerable to abuse, and in many cases they are treated no better than slaves. Conditions are particularly bad in Muslim countries where it is not necessarily a crime to mistreat or molest non-believers.
Editor’s Note: This is a good move on Duterte’s part, perhaps even a page out of the Trump book of negotiation. It is his duty to protect his people around the world, and he has just served notice that there will be severe ramifications for mistreatment of filipinos. Countries around the world who use filipino labor, like Kuwait, will be in big trouble without them.