Duterte bans Philippine nationals from working in Kuwait

In this file photo, Philippines’ President Rodrigo Duterte Rodrigo Duterte gestures during a news conference on the sidelines of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Pasay, Metro Manila, Philippines, Nov. 14, 2017. (REUTERS)
Updated 20 January 2018
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Duterte bans Philippine nationals from working in Kuwait

MANILA: President Rodrigo Duterte has banned Philippine citizens from traveling to Kuwait to work following reports of widespread abuse and exploitation, his spokesman said Saturday.
Duterte ordered the ban after reports emerged about the deaths of several Filipino women in the Gulf state, his spokesman Harry Roque said.
“In line with his presidential pronouncement, Labour Secretary Silvestre Bello has ordered the suspension of the deployment of workers to Kuwait,” Roque told reporters.
“There is really excessive suffering over there,” Roque said, adding that the ban was “long overdue.”
An estimated 10 million Filipinos work overseas and the money they send home is a major pillar of the Philippine economy.
It was not immediately clear how long the ban, which does not affect workers already in Kuwait, would last.
In his speech before overseas workers on Thursday, Duterte said he would urge the Kuwaiti government to act against the abuses.
“My advice is, we talk to them, state the truth and just tell them that it’s not acceptable anymore. Either we impose a total ban or we can have (disagreements),” Duterte said.
“I do not want a quarrel with Kuwait. I respect their leaders, but they have to do something about this,” he added.
Spokesmen for the Kuwaiti embassy in Manila could not be reached for comment.
Kuwait has faced criticism in the past over its “kafala” system for foreign workers which has been likened to a form of bonded labor or even slavery.
The kafala system prevents workers from moving to a new job before their contracts end without their boss’s consent, resulting in a wide range of abuses.
The Gulf state is a major destination for migrant workers with the Kuwaiti government estimating that more than 170,000 Philippine nationals live there. Other groups have far higher estimates.


Six dead in fire at Rohingya camp in Myanmar

Updated 19 October 2018
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Six dead in fire at Rohingya camp in Myanmar

  • The UN Human Rights Council has accused top Myanmar generals of genocide over the bloody campaign, allegations the country strongly denies.
  • Myanmar has vowed to close nearly 20 of the camps around Sittwe in the coming months.

YANGON, Myanmar: Six Rohingya were killed early Friday after a blaze tore through an overcrowded camp for the persecuted minority in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, the local fire service said.
Global attention has focused on the 720,000 Rohingya Muslims forced from the state’s north into Bangladesh last year by a brutal military crackdown.
The UN Human Rights Council has accused top Myanmar generals of genocide over the bloody campaign, allegations the country strongly denies.
But less visible are the 129,000 Rohingya confined to squalid camps further south near the capital Sittwe following an earlier bout of violence in 2012.
Hundreds were killed that year in riots between Rakhine Buddhists and the stateless minority, who were corralled into destitute camps away from their former neighbors.
The conflagration in Ohndaw Chay camp, which houses some 4,000 Rohingya and lies 15 miles (24 kilometers) from Sittwe, started just before midnight and lasted several hours, fire department official Han Soe told AFP.
“Six people, one man and five women were killed,” he said, adding that 15 communal longhouses were also destroyed in the blaze thought to have been started in a kitchen accident.
“We were able to bring the fire under control about 1:10 am this morning and had put it out completely by around 3 am,” he said.
A total of 822 people were left without shelter, local media reported.
Conditions in the camps are dire and Rohingya trapped there have virtually no access to health care, education and work, relying on food handouts from aid agencies to survive.
Access into the camps is also tightly controlled, effectively cutting their inhabitants off from the outside world and leaving their plight largely forgotten.
Fires in the camps are common because of “severe” overcrowding, according to the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
“Many camp residents have built makeshift extensions to their shelters to create more space for their families. So when a fire breaks out, it is more likely to spread quickly,” said OCHA spokesman Pierre Peron.
Hla Win, a Rohingya man from a nearby camp, told AFP that fire trucks were slow to arrive along the dilapidated roads from Sittwe and the lack of water also hampered efforts to extinguish the blaze.
“We have no ponds near the camps,” he said. “That’s why the fire destroyed so much.”
Myanmar has vowed to close nearly 20 of the camps around Sittwe in the coming months.
Rights groups say the move will achieve little without ending movement restrictions or granting Rohingya a pathway to citizenship.