Kuwait and Philippines strike domestic worker deal

Filipinos will safeguard the rights of domestic workers while in the country

Members of the Filipino community working and residing in Kuwait attend a meeting with their country's Labour Department Undersecretary for Workers Protection, Human Resource, and Internal Auditing Services Cluster, at the Philippines' Embassy in Kuwait City, on February 24, 2018.
The employers of the murdered 29-year-old Filipina maid Joanna Demafelis, whose body was found dead in a freezer in Kuwait, were both arrested in the Syrian capital Damascus, a Lebanese judicial official said on February 24.
The murder had sparked outrage in the Philippines and prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to impose a departure ban for Filipinos planning to work in Kuwait. / AFP PHOTO / YASSER AL-ZAYYAT
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Kuwait and the Philippines signed a deal to regulate the working conditions for domestic workers in the Gulf country after a Filipina maid was found dead in a freezer in February, according to Kuwait's state news agency.

The deal, which came during a meeting between a Kuwaiti ministerial delegation and Filipino authorities in Manila, will ensure the rights of both employers and employees, said Sami Al Hamad, the undersecretary for consulate affairs at the Foreign Ministry.

Firebrand Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte attacked Kuwait after the body of Joanna Daniela Demafelis was found in an apartment in Kuwait City on February 6.

The employers of Demafelis were arrested in Damascus, Syria after Kuwaiti authorities launched an investigation with the Interpol to track the Syrian-Lebanese couple suspected of the murder.

Syrian authorities surrendered Nader Essam Assaf to Beirut because of his Lebanese citizenship, but his Syrian wife, Mona, remains in custody in Damascus, a Lebanese judicial official said.


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The new agreement added that both local and foreign employers in Kuwait must ensure that their labourers would have the right to retain their passports, as well as the right to refuse transfer of their working visa to another employer.

The murder was not the first case in the region. A UN reported last week said more needs to be done to prevent the exploitation and abuse of domestic workers in the Middle East.

The agreement between the two countries comes after Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmed invited Mr Duterte to visit.

Filipino workers often leave their home country in search of higher salaries as even skilled workers like computer engineers earn at home only about 49,300 pesos (Dh3,526) a month, according to government figures.

Some 10 million Filipinos work overseas in a variety of jobs. Their cash remittances, which the central bank says was over $28 billion last year, are a major contributor to the Philippine economy.

The Philippines government banned its citizens to leave for the UAE to work as domestic workers as a result of the unscrupulous behaviour of some recruiters and cases of suspected abuse.

The ban was lifted after an agreement was made between the two countries whereby domestic workers contracts will be based on labour laws approved by both countries.