Sentro’s statement on issues of domestic workers in Kuwait

Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa (SENTRO) shares the jubilation of hundreds of thousands of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) for the recent positive development in the diplomatic row between the Kuwaiti and the Philippine governments.

As part of the resolution, the Kuwaiti government announced last 9 May 2018 that the concerns of all migrant domestic workers will henceforth be handled by the Labor Department. In other words, migrant domestic workers will now be considered as workers!

This is a major victory for more than half a million migrant domestic workers in Kuwaiti, including Filipinos. It is the culmination of years of work by SANDIGAN, together with the Kuwait Trade Union Federation (KTUF) and the International Labour Organization (ILO).

“We are very pleased with the Kuwaiti government’s decision,” Mary Ann Abunda, head of SANDIGAN, said. “We could not have done it without the help of the KTUF,” she added.

SANDIGAN, a Filipino migrant rights advocacy group in Kuwait, was one of the first to raise the red flag of alarm when a group of media-attention-hungry Philippine officials staged a ‘heroic’ rescue operation for several OFWs. Rather than promote the protection of OFWs, their brazenness actually endangered the lives of OFWs in Kuwait.

SENTRO commends all the OFWs who had petitioned both the Philippine and the Kuwaiti governments to resolve the issue at the earnest, and kudos to the individuals from both parties who work silently to resolve the case, far from the media limelight.

SENTRO also commends the Kuwait government for its part in the solution and the tacit admittance that it needs the skills, intelligence, and caring hands of the OFWs.

“The decision of the Kuwaiti government is definitely a step in the right direction. But more needs to be done, Josua Mata, Secretary General of SENTRO, said.

SENTRO urges the Kuwaiti government to abolish the dreaded ‘kafala system’ or the sponsorship system that leaves migrant workers vulnerable to abuse.

At the same time, SENTRO is calling on the Philippine government to intensify the effort of securing memorandum of agreements with other countries, particularly in the Middle East, to protect the rights and welfare Filipino migrant workers.

This is essentially the responsibility and reason for being of the various Philippine consular and diplomatic offices scattered all over the planet—to protect their own citizens, and not to conspire with foreign and local agencies and individuals for monetary and other purposes.

Finally, SENTRO urges the government to develop an industrial policy that would ensure regular and decent work for all in the country and institute a re-integration program. Then and only then can we make migration as real choice for our workers.

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