Ban on Filipino workers in Kuwait may ‘do more harm than good’

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday threatened to permanently ban Filipinos from working in Kuwait.(AFP)
Updated 27 January 2018

Ban on Filipino workers in Kuwait may ‘do more harm than good’

LONDON: Imposing a ban on Filipinos working in Gulf states may “do more harm than good” as it could push workers to resort to unsafe and unregulated channels, a human rights group has warned.
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday threatened to permanently ban Filipinos from working in Kuwait, as well as withdraw his countrymen from working there if another Filipino domestic helper is raped and dies, it was reported this week.
The Philippines Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) last week suspended the processing of overseas employment certificates for workers bound for Kuwait following the deaths of Filipino workers who had allegedly suffered sexual abuses by their employers, according to Philippines media.
Duterte said last week that four Filipinos had died in Kuwait over the past few months in apparent suicides, AFP reported. Duterte has since asked the governments of Kuwait and other Middle Eastern countries, where more than a million Filipinos work, to take steps to end the abuse and “to treat my countrymen as human beings with dignity.”
But instead of banning Filipinos from working in Kuwait, the Philippines president should demand stronger protections, Human Rights Watch (HRW) women’s rights division researcher Rothna Begum said in a statement on the organization’s website.
“Such a ban would likely do more harm than good, forcing workers to take greater risks to seek overseas employment while cutting off a critical source of income for families in the Philippines,” Begum said.
HRW recommends the Philippines government seeks to advocate an end to the “abusive” kafala (visa sponsorship) system which ties migrant workers to their employers and prohibits them from leaving or changing jobs without their employer’s permission.
More than 250,000 Filipinos work in Kuwait, the Philippine foreign ministry estimates, most of them as domestic helpers. There are also large numbers in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
“The experience of other countries like Indonesia, that have instituted bans on their nationals similar to that threatened by President Duterte, is that such bans do not end these abuses,” Begum added.
Instead, improved cooperation with Middle East governments to work alongside the Philippines embassy to help rescue workers in distress and conduct investigations into worker deaths is recommended, the HRW researcher said.
Kuwait initially expressed surprise at the ban and said it was in touch with Manila to try to resolve the issue.
Duterte said Kuwait was an ally, but abuse should not be tolerated.


US to pull last troops from north Syria

Updated 14 October 2019

US to pull last troops from north Syria

  • The developments illustrate Washington’s waning influence over events in Syria
  • Turkey aims to neutralize the Kurdish YPG militia, the main element of US’s Kurdish-led ally the Syrian Democratic Forces

WASHINGTON/BEIRUT: The United States said on Sunday it will withdraw its remaining 1,000 troops from northern Syria in the face of an expanding Turkish offensive while Syria’s army struck a deal with Kurdish forces to redeploy along its border with Turkey, both major victories for Syrian President Bashar Assad.
The developments illustrate Washington’s waning influence over events in Syria and the failure of the US policy of keeping Assad from reasserting state authority over areas lost during the more than eight-year conflict with rebels trying to end his rule.
The developments also represent wins for Russia and Iran, which have backed Assad since 2011 when his violent effort to crush what began as peaceful protests against his family’s decades-long rule of Syria exploded into a full-blown civil war.
While the US withdrawal moves American troops out of the line of fire, the return of Syrian soldiers to the Turkish border opens up the possibility of a wider conflagration should the Syrian army come in direct conflict with Turkish forces.
The Turkish onslaught in northern Syria has also raised the prospect that Daesh militants and their families held by the Kurdish forces targeted by Turkey may escape — scores were said to have done so already — and permit the group’s revival.
The remarkable turn of events was set in motion a week ago when US President Donald Trump decided to withdraw about 50 special operations forces from two outposts in northern Syria, a step widely seen as paving the way for Turkey to launch its week-long incursion against Kurdish militia in the region.
Turkey aims to neutralize the Kurdish YPG militia, the main element of Washington’s Kurdish-led ally, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which has been a key US ally in dismantling the “caliphate” set up by Daesh militants in Syria.
Ankara regards the YPG as a terrorist group aligned with Kurdish insurgents in Turkey.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday said the offensive would extend from Kobani in the west to Hasaka in the east and extend some 30 kilometers into Syrian territory, with the town of Ras al Ain now in Turkish control.
US Defense Secretary Mike Esper said the United States decided to withdraw its roughly 1,000 troops in northern Syria — two US officials told Reuters it could pull the bulk out in days — after learning of the deepening Turkish offensive.
It was unclear what would happen to the several hundred US troops at the American military outpost of Tanf, near Syria’s southern border with Iraq and Jordan.
Another factor behind the decision, Esper indicated in an interview with the CBS program “Face the Nation,” was that the SDF aimed to make a deal with Russia and Syria to counter the Turkish onslaught. Several hours later, the Kurdish-led administration said it had struck just such an agreement for the Syrian army to deploy along the length of the border with Turkey to help repel Ankara’s offensive.
The deployment would help the SDF in countering “this aggression and liberating the areas that the Turkish army and mercenaries had entered,” it added, referring to Turkey-backed Syrian rebels, and would also allow for the liberation of other Syrian cities occupied by the Turkish army such as Afrin.
The fighting has sparked Western concerns that the SDF, holding large swathes of northern Syria once controlled by Daesh, would be unable to keep thousands of militants in jail and tens of thousands of their family members in camps.