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

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.
 


Greece to “shut the door” to migrants not entitled to asylum, PM says

Updated 20 min 22 sec ago

Greece to “shut the door” to migrants not entitled to asylum, PM says

  • The government announced plans to shut overcrowded refugee camps on islands and replace them with more restrictive holding centers
  • They want to move up to 20,000 people to the mainland by the end of the year

ATHENS: Greece said on Friday it was deploying more border guards to “shut the door” to migrants not entitled to stay, the latest sign of a hardening stance against asylum seekers since a new surge in the number of arrivals. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told parliament he had approved the hiring of 400 guards at Greece’s land border with Turkey and another 800 guards for its islands. Greece will also upgrade its sea patrolling operations, he said.
On Wednesday, the conservative government elected in July announced plans to shut overcrowded refugee camps on islands and replace them with more restrictive holding centers.
“Welcome in Greece are only those we choose. Those who are not welcomed will be returned,” Mitsotakis said. “We will permanently shut the door to illegal human traffickers, to those who want to enter although they are not entitled to asylum.”
Greece was the main gateway into the European Union for more than a million people fleeing conflict in 2015-16.
Migrant and refugee arrivals from neighboring Turkey have risen again, and more than 37,000 people are crammed into facilities on islands which operate far beyond their capacity.
The government wants to move up to 20,000 people to the mainland by the end of the year.
It has also designed a new framework to speed up the processing of asylum requests, which human rights groups have criticized as a “rushed” attempt that would impede access to a fair asylum process for refugees.