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The Philippines

Kuwait and Philippines end ‘domestic dispute’ by signing deal to regulate Filipino labour

New agreement will finally allow Filipino workers to keep their passports and mobile phones, which were often confiscated by their employers

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 May, 2018, 9:59pm
UPDATED : Friday, 11 May, 2018, 10:24pm

Kuwait and the Philippines signed a deal on Friday to regulate domestic workers, after a dispute between the two countries led to a ban on Filipino workers in the Gulf state.

“A short time ago we signed an agreement between the two countries on the employment of domestic workers,” Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Khaled al-Sabah told a joint press conference with his Filipino counterpart Alan Peter Cayetano.

In February Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte imposed a partial ban on workers travelling to Kuwait after a Filipino maid was murdered and her body found in a freezer.

The crisis deepened after Kuwaiti authorities in April expelled Manila’s ambassador over video footage of embassy staff helping workers escape employers accused of abuse.

Cayetano said a new ambassador to Kuwait would soon be appointed and he would advise Duterte to “immediately” lift the ban.

“I think the crisis is over. We will move on with the bilateral relations and we will resume normal ties with Kuwait,” said a member of Cayetano’s delegation.

He added that the agreement “gives a number of rights to Philippine workers”.

A copy of the agreement seen by AFP says workers will be allowed to keep their passports and mobile phones, which are often confiscated by employers.

It says contract renewals should be approved by the Philippine Overseas Labour Office, instead of being automatically renewed.

Employers must provide domestic workers with food, housing, clothing and health insurance, according to the document.

About 262,000 Filipinos work in Kuwait, 60 per cent of them in domestic labour, according to Manila.

More than 2 million Filipinos are employed across the Gulf.

Rights groups have repeatedly urged Gulf states to reform their labour laws to cover domestic workers and provide them with “equal protections” available to other workers.