Philippines, Kuwait agree on migrant labor protection pact

Filipino workers returning home from Kuwait arrive at Manila International Airport on February 18, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 18 March 2018
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Philippines, Kuwait agree on migrant labor protection pact

MANILA: A bilateral agreement to provide protection to Filipino workers will be signed soon by the Philippine and Kuwaiti governments.
Philippines Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said that after a brief impasse in the two-day negotiations held in Manila, officials from both countries finally concurred on a draft migrant labor protection pact Friday evening.
In a telephone interview, Bello said the brief impasse was due to two remaining ticklish issues - one addressing the issue on OFW (overseas Filipino worker) passports being withheld by employers, and the second about employment contracts.
Bello said that while the Kuwaiti officials agreed to the Philippine government’s proposal that passports of Filipino workers should be deposited at the Philippine embassy and not withheld by employers, they (Kuwaiti officials) did not want this to be put in writing.
“But we insisted on putting that in the agreement. Finally they agreed,” Bello told Arab News.
“The other issue is that they wanted the employment contract to follow the Kuwaiti standard contract form. We did not agree. Eventually we had a neutral formulation that the contract will be drafted upon the joint agreement of Philippines and Kuwaiti,” said Bello.
That way, the employment contract will be in accordance with Philippine laws, he explained.
Other provisions of the draft Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) is the $400 net-per-month salary of OFWs, with the employer opening a bank account where the salary of the worker will be deposited. This will be proof that the worker is being paid.
It was also agreed that an OFW must give a written consent in case of transfer from one employer to another, and the transfer must also be approved in writing by the Philippine labor attaché.
Bello said the Kuwaiti ambassador to the Philippines will see him on Monday morning to discuss and decide on the date and venue of the signing of the agreement and who will be the signatories.
Usually the signatories are the head of the Kuwait Ministry of Labor and the Philippines’ secretary of labor, Bello said. He said the signing of the MoU would be easier and swifter if it were between the labor ministers of both countries. “Then probably we can schedule the signing next week,” he said.
At the same time, Bello said the signing of the pact will not guarantee the lifting of the ban on deployment of Filipino workers to Kuwait.
“If you recall, the president imposed two conditions (for the lifting of the ban). First is that we have an agreement with Kuwait and second, Joanna (Demafelis) will be given justice. So we’ll have to wait for that,” said Bello.
It was the discovery of Demafelis’ body stuffed in a freezer in an abandoned apartment in Kuwait that triggered the ban on the deployment of OFWs to Kuwait.
Bello, however, said that this ban will not affect the Philippines-Kuwait relationship.
 


UK warns dual nationals over travel to Iran, as France holds on envoy nomination

Updated 15 min 51 sec ago
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UK warns dual nationals over travel to Iran, as France holds on envoy nomination

  • Britain is seeking the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation who was arrested in April 2016
  • France will not name a new ambassador to Tehran before getting information from Iran following a foiled plot to bomb an Iranian opposition rally in Paris in June

LONDON: Britain on Wednesday advised British-Iranian dual nationals against all but essential travel to Iran, tightening up its existing travel advice and warning it has only limited powers to support them if detained.

The advisory came in tandem with France’s decision to hold off on appointing a new ambassador to Iran, as it seeks clarification over an attempt to bomb an Iranian opposition rally in Paris in June

“The Foreign Secretary (Jeremy Hunt) has taken the decision to advise against all but essential travel by UK-Iranian dual nationals to Iran,” a foreign office spokeswoman said in an emailed statement.
“British citizens who also hold Iranian nationality face risks if they travel to Iran, as we have seen all too sadly in a number of cases. The Iranian government does not recognize dual nationality, so if a dual national is detained our ability to provide support is extremely limited.”
Earlier this month Britain’s Middle East minister Alistair Burt used a visit to Iran to discuss cases of detained dual nationals, alongside other diplomatic issues.
Britain is seeking the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation who was arrested in April 2016 at a Tehran airport as she headed back to Britain with her daughter, now aged four, after a family visit.
She was convicted of plotting to overthrow Iran’s clerical establishment, a charge denied by her family and the Foundation, a charity organization that is independent of Thomson Reuters and operates independently of Reuters News.
Meanwhile, France will not name a new ambassador to Tehran before getting information from Iran following a foiled plot to bomb an Iranian opposition rally in Paris last June, French officials said on Wednesday.
An Iranian diplomat based in Austria and three other people were arrested on suspicion of plotting the attack on a meeting of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).
Iran has said it had nothing to do with the plot, which it called a “false flag” operation staged by figures within the opposition group itself.
The incident has hit relations just as France and its European partners are seeking to salvage a 2015 nuclear agreement between Tehran and world powers.
France’s ambassador to Iran departed in the summer. Iran has also yet to replace its departed ambassador to Paris.
“We have a charge d’affaires today in Tehran and there is a high-level dialogue between French and Iranian authorities,” said a French presidential source.
“We are working together to bring to light what happened around this event ... I wouldn’t say there is a direct link (in not appointing an ambassador), but Iran has promised to give us objective facts in the coming weeks that would allow us to pursue our diplomatic relationship as it is today.”
A French diplomatic source said the nomination had indeed been suspended as a result of the alleged plot.
France’s Foreign Ministry in August told its diplomats and officials to postpone non-essential travel to Iran indefinitely, citing the plot and a hardening of Tehran’s attitude toward France, according to an internal memo seen by Reuters.
President Emmanuel Macron is likely to discuss the issue with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani when they meet on Sept. 25 on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, the source said.
Along with Britain and Germany, France is trying save a 2015 agreement on Iran’s nuclear program, which was thrown into disarray when US President Donald Trump pulled out of the accord in May and re-imposed economic sanctions on Iran.
Even so, tensions between Paris and Tehran have grown in recent months as Macron and his government have become increasingly frustrated with Iran’s activities in the Middle East region, in particular its ballistic missile program.