KUWAIT CITY, April 22: “Procedures taken by the Embassy of the Philippines in Kuwait are in violation of the international law particularly the Vienna Convention. Therefore, decisive and deterrent actions against these unacceptable and irresponsible acts can be expected”, says the National Assembly Speaker Marzouq Al- Ghanim.
Concerning the actions of the embassy and the issue of employment of Filipinos, he said, “In response to the question I submitted to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Sabah Al-Khalid concerning this matter, he told me today that the Ambassador of the Philippines was summoned, and was presented with many issues including the options that are being studied by Kuwait’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I believe the minister has the right to disclose these options”.
Al-Ghanim affirmed that, “Anything that affects the sovereignty and dignity of Kuwait and its reputation by linking the country with irregular and nonrecurrent incidents as well as the unjustified escalation from the Filipino side will receive a response from Kuwait’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs”.
He revealed that he obtained a request from MP Mohammed Al-Dalal to include this matter in the agenda of the coming session, adding that the lawmaker also demanded this subject to be discussed in a general debate at the session, and for the Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee to prepare a report in this regard.
Al-Ghanim said, “If we are unable to complete the agenda on Wednesday, this issue will be on the top of the agenda. The government will also have several clarifications on this matter”. He added, “I would like to reiterate to Kuwaiti people that Kuwait is taking action, as per the information received from the Foreign Affairs Minister.
The Filipino side has been informed, and it has requested a short period of time to rectify its status, statements and procedures”.
Meanwhile, MP Yousef Al-Fadhala said he sent a letter to the National Assembly, requesting for Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee to be assigned to investigate the issue of smuggling Filipino maids, an issue of which videos have gone viral on social media such as Twitter and Facebook. He demanded for representatives of Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Foreign Affairs to be invited in order to hear their statements in this regard.
MP Al-Fadhala also demanded the committee should complete its report within one month from the date of its assignment of the task.
Kuwaiti police arrested two Filipinos for allegedly convincing housemaids to run away from their employers’ homes as the Philippines’ ambassador faced questions for comments about his embassy’s work in aiding abused workers, authorities said Sunday.
The arrests, reported by the state-run KUNA news agency, come as relations are tense between Kuwait and the Philippines, which sends many domestic laborers to the Gulf Arab country.
Already, the government of President Rodrigo Duterte has banned workers from heading to Kuwait over abuse cases, culminating in a February incident that saw a Filipina’s body discovered in a freezer at a Kuwait City apartment abandoned for more than a year.
KUNA said Sunday the two Filipinos acknowledged convincing the maids to leave. It wasn’t clear what law the two men were accused of breaking, though KUNA said the two “confessed to the crime in addition to other similar offenses that had been committed in various regions of the country.”
The arrests came after Kuwait summoned the Philippines ambassador over comments he made that were reported in local press about the embassy’s effort to rescue domestic workers who are abused by their employers. Ambassador Renato Villa was quoted as saying his embassy moves in to help the abused if Kuwaiti authorities fail to respond within 24 hours.
Villa’s office said he was unavailable for comment Sunday. Duterte in January complained that cases of abuse reported by Filipina domestic workers “always” seem to be coming from Kuwait. There have been prominent cases of abuse in the past, including an incident in December 2014 where a Kuwaiti’s pet lions fatally mauled a Filipina maid.
The Philippines banned workers entirely from Kuwait after the discovery of Joanna Demafelis’ body in a freezer in February. In late March, Lebanese officials said 40-year-old Lebanese national Nader Essam Assaf confessed to killing the woman along with his Syrian wife, who remains at large. Authorities say Assaf faces a possible death sentence. More than 260,000 Filipinos work in Kuwait, many of them as housemaids. Kuwait and the Philippines have since been negotiating for new rules governing Filipino workers there.
Philippine officials have demanded that housemaids be allowed to hold their passports and cellphones, which is normal for skilled workers like teachers and office workers. But many Kuwaiti employers seize their phones and passports. Around 225 undocumented Filipinos including six undocumented Filipino kids were repatriated to the Philippines on Sunday under the Kuwait Amnesty Program. The last batch of repatriates was fl own via Qatar Airways and all tickets were shouldered by the Philippine government.
Around 5,060 undocumented Filipinos availed the three-month amnesty that started on Jan 29, 2018. As of Sunday night, some undocumented Filipinos went to the embassy and took the last flight out before midnight. “On behalf of our Ambassador Renato Pedro Villa, we would like to thank the Kuwaiti government for giving this amnesty in 2018. We would have not repatriated successfully more than 5,000 undocumented Filipinos without their help — the Kuwait Immigration authorities, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the media for helping us in the information campaign. Thank you,” stated Philippine Consul General Noordin Pendosina Lomondot, who fl ew with the last batch to Manila.
Most of the undocumented Filipinos worked as Household Service Workers (HSWs) who left their employers after experiencing various forms of maltreatment such as physical, verbal or sexual abuse, non-payment of salaries, lack of food and overwork.
They all thanked the Kuwaiti government, the Philippine Embassy and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte for the free air tickets.
The undocumented Filipinos were ferried to the airport accompanied by the embassy staff and the Department of Foreign Affairs Office of the Undersecretary of Migrant Workers Affairs (DFA-OUMWA) Augmentation Team from Manila.
Spotted also at the airport was visiting Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs Sarah Lou Arriola who joined the team in sending off the last group. There are around 8,000 undocumented Filipino workers in Kuwait based on the records of the Ministry of Interior and the embassy earlier targeted to repatriate at least 65% of the undocumented OFWs.
By Abubakar A. Ibrahim & Michelle Fe Santiago Arab Times Staff and Agencies