UAE to restart accepting Filipino household service workers

UAE to restart accepting Filipino household service workers
The deployment of Filipino domestic workers to the UAE has been suspended since 2014. (AFP file photo)
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Updated 03 March 2021

UAE to restart accepting Filipino household service workers

UAE to restart accepting Filipino household service workers
  • Agreement involves recruiting Filipino domestic workers via official entities from April 2021

DUBAI: The UAE will resume accepting Filipino household service workers (HSWs) next month after signing a labor agreement with the Philippines giving greater protection to home-based employees.

The agreement involves recruiting Filipino domestic workers via official entities from April 2021, which “will begin a new phase of bilateral cooperation between the two friendly countries in the recruitment of domestic workers,” Saif Al-Suwaidi, Undersecretary at the UAE Ministry for Human Resources Affairs said in a statement released by state news agency WAM.

The agreement will control and regulate the recruitment process, maintain the rights of all involved parties, and reduce the overall costs of this process, Al-Suwaidi added.

The deployment of Filipino domestic workers to the UAE has been suspended since 2014 when the UAE stopped foreign embassies from verifying the contracts of their nationals serving as domestic helpers. Contract verification is required under Philippine law.

The new deployment scheme will now be covered by a Unified Employment Contract that provides stringent measures to protect HSWs pursuant to the directives of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, various Philippine media reports noted.

Under the unified contract, both the employer and the foreign recruitment agencies, and the Philippine recruitment agencies are bound by joint and solidary liability should anything happen to the Filipino workers.

The same provisions were in the standard employment contract being used in Kuwait, Philippine labor officials noted.

The UAE official also said discussions were held with their Philippine counterparts regarding “precautionary procedures implemented by the UAE to protect workers, including domestic workers, from the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as its efforts to offer medical treatment to patients.”


Arab League chief calls for strategic partnership with UN to end region’s wars

Arab League chief calls for strategic partnership with UN to end region’s wars
Updated 20 April 2021

Arab League chief calls for strategic partnership with UN to end region’s wars

Arab League chief calls for strategic partnership with UN to end region’s wars
  • Security Council met to consider ways in which cooperation with organizations in Middle east might be enhanced to maintain global peace and security
  • Members reminded that groups closest to conflict zones are best positioned to understand disputes and help to prevent or resolve them

League of Arab States Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit on Monday called on the Security Council and other UN bodies to establish a strategic working partnership with the league and its member states.
The aim, he said, would be to lay the foundations for “security, stability and sustainable development in the Arab region, based on a genuine understanding of the problems facing the region, and on the primary responsibility of the UN in maintaining international peace and security.”
His call came during a high-level Security Council meeting on Monday that highlighted the importance of UN cooperation with regional and subregional organizations as part of efforts to maintain global peace and security, and considered how this might be enhanced.
The meeting was convened by Nguyen Xuan Phuc, the president of Vietnam, which holds the presidency of the Security Council this month, to discuss ways of fostering confidence building and dialogue in conflict prevention and resolution.
In a statement issued after the meeting, the presidency noted that the council’s primary responsibility under its charter is to safeguard international peace and security. It added that “regional and subregional organizations are well positioned to understand the root causes of armed conflicts owing to their knowledge of the region, which can be a benefit for their efforts to influence the prevention or resolution of these conflicts. (They are also) well positioned in promoting confidence, trust and dialogue among concerned parties within their respective regions.” It also pointed out that regional organizations play a vital role in post-conflict reconstruction and sustainable development.
The statement reaffirmed a commitment to the peaceful settlement of disputes. It called on council members to utilize the potential of regional and subregional organizations by “encouraging countries in the region to resolve differences peacefully through dialogue, reconciliation, consultation, negotiation, good offices, mediation and judicial settlement of disputes (and) by the promotion of confidence-building measures and political dialogue through full engagement with concerned parties.”
Since taking office in 2016, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has made such cooperation a key priority. Since 1945, he told council members, cooperation has grown significantly to now encompass “preventive diplomacy, mediation, counterterrorism, preventing violent extremism, peacekeeping, peacebuilding, promoting human rights, advancing the Women, Peace and Security agenda, combating climate change and, since last year, the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
He highlighted the establishment of a civilian-led transitional government in Sudan, in which women and young people play vital roles, as an example of effective cooperation — between the UN and the African Union (AU) and Ethiopia — to facilitate negotiations between rival parties. This type of collaboration led to signing of the Juba Peace Agreement in October 2020, he added.
Guterres also underscored the importance of the cooperation between the UN, the AU, the League of Arab States and the EU (the Libya Quartet) to support the “Libyan-led, Libyan-owned dialogue process and transition.” Working together in this way continues to support the implementation of the ceasefire and the promotion of national reconciliation, he added.
Meanwhile, Aboul Gheit said that the COVID-19 pandemic represents an additional problem for an Arab region already burdened by “wars, armed conflicts, refugees, internally displaced persons and other structural challenges affecting the security and stability of many of its countries.”
He urged council members to maximize international solidarity in the efforts to deal with the repercussions of the pandemic and all its human, economic and social costs. It is essential, he said, to end the fighting that is tearing apart the societal fabric of countries in conflict.
Highlighting the war in Syria and the “unprecedented external and regional interventions in this important Arab country,” Aboul Gheit warned that “the chances of extricating Syria from this terrifying spiral of conflict will continue to erode with the passage of time, and that the cost of rebuilding what the war has destroyed will increase day by day, and that the risks of unrest spreading to neighboring countries will remain unless a radical and integrated political settlement is reached.”
Aboul Gheit also spoke about Yemen, where the world’s worst man-made humanitarian crisis continues to unfold “due to the intransigence of the Houthi group and its rejection of all settlement attempts made over the past years, the latest of which is the Saudi initiative supported by the Arab world, and as a result of regional interventions that made Yemen a platform to threaten the security of its neighbors in the Gulf (and) energy and sea routes in the region.”
He also called for “more joint efforts to accompany the Libyan brothers in this march (toward national elections in December), through our coordinated work with the UN mission and also through the Quartet.”


Defiant Lebanese judge faces crunch meeting on Tuesday

Defiant Lebanese judge faces crunch meeting on Tuesday
An opponent of Judge Ghada Aoun grabs the weapon of a soldier, after he hit the protester with it, during a sit-in outside the Justice Palace in Beirut, Lebanon, Monday, April 19, 2021. (AP)
Updated 20 April 2021

Defiant Lebanese judge faces crunch meeting on Tuesday

Defiant Lebanese judge faces crunch meeting on Tuesday
  • She staged two raids on a currency exchange earlier this month in defiance of the decision from Public Prosecutor Judge Ghassan Oweidat to dismiss her

BEIRUT: A Lebanese judge who defied a decision dismissing her from an investigation into possible currency export breaches has been summoned for a meeting on Tuesday with the country’s Supreme Judicial Council.
Judge Ghada Aoun, who was referred to the Judicial Inspection Authority because of more than 20 complaints against her, can be deemed incompetent by the vote of five council members and five authority members.
Aoun had been investigating the Mecattaf money exchange company and Societe Generale Bank for allegedly withdrawing US dollars from the market and shipping the funds abroad.
She staged two raids on a currency exchange earlier this month in defiance of the decision from Public Prosecutor Judge Ghassan Oweidat to dismiss her.
In one of the raids she was accompanied by supporters of the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), the political party led by the president’s son-in-law MP Gebran Bassil.
In the event that Aoun agrees during Tuesday’s meeting to comply with Oweidat’s decision, she will be dismissed from matters related to important financial crimes but will remain in her position as an appellate public prosecutor in Mount Lebanon.Two protests were held outside the Beirut Justice Palace on Monday.
One was by Aoun’s supporters from the FPM. The other was by supporters of Oweidat from the Future Movement, the political party led by Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri.
The rival protests turned into a clash, with people shoving and beating each other, and one person was wounded.
The army and riot police intervened to separate the protesters and end their sit-ins.
According to one judge, there was a judicial hierarchy that must be respected: “Judge Oweidat requested the dismissal of a judge who is his subordinate, so how could she not comply?”
Aoun, who has become controversial in her handling of judicial files, has become a matter of public and political debate.
Some support the judge in her conduct to expose the corruption of authority, while others consider her to be a tool for the FPM through which it chooses which issues to attack its opponents with.
The Future parliamentary bloc said that what happened with Aoun reflected “contempt for the constitutional institutions and the incitement of some judges to usurp powers” that were not theirs.
Attorney Imad Al-Saba, who is the central coordinator of the lawyers’ sector in the Future Movement, said the party rejected the politicization of the judiciary. “It is our duty to restore the judiciary’s credibility and prestige,” he added.
Systemic corruption in Lebanon has angered the public, with people taking to the streets to protest and saying that graft has devastated the country’s economy.   
The former president of the Constitutional Council, Issam Sleiman, said that what Oweidat did was against the law. “We are in an unacceptable state of chaos. The judiciary is asleep, several public prosecution offices have not done anything in any of the corruption files, and no corrupt person has been arrested or held accountable. The plundering of public money will not be exposed except through a forensic audit.”
President Michel Aoun has insisted on a financial audit into the accounts of the Banque du Liban. But his opponents are demanding the audit include all state institutions, especially the Ministry of Energy, which is run by ministers affiliated with the FPM.


GCC official and Swedish envoy discuss developments in Yemen

GCC official and Swedish envoy discuss developments in Yemen
Updated 20 April 2021

GCC official and Swedish envoy discuss developments in Yemen

GCC official and Swedish envoy discuss developments in Yemen
  • They discussed the GCC’s efforts to support a political solution to the crisis

RIYADH: Abdul Aziz Hamad Aluwaisheg, the assistant secretary general for political affairs and negotiations at the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), has met with Sweden’s envoy to Yemen Peter Semneby in the Saudi capital, Riyadh on Monday.
During the meeting, they discussed the latest developments in Yemen, and reviewed the GCC’s efforts to support a political solution to the crisis, according to the three references represented by the Gulf Initiative and its implementation mechanism, the outcomes of the comprehensive national dialogue, and UN Security Council Resolution 2216.
They also discussed the peace initiative that was announced by Saudi Arabia in March to end the war in Yemen, implement a comprehensive cease-fire, and begin consultations between the Yemeni parties to reach a political solution to the Yemeni crisis under the auspices of the UN.
Semneby briefed the GCC official on Sweden’s political and humanitarian efforts in following up with the Yemeni issue, and said he praised cooperation with the bloc in this regard.


Russian army says killed 'up to 200 militants' in Syria bombing

 Russian army says killed 'up to 200 militants' in Syria bombing
Updated 19 April 2021

Russian army says killed 'up to 200 militants' in Syria bombing

 Russian army says killed 'up to 200 militants' in Syria bombing

MOSCOW: Russia's defence ministry said Monday that it had killed "up to 200 fighters" in Syria during an air strike on a "terrorist" base northeast of Palmyra.
"After confirming data through multiple channels on the location of terrorist facilities, Russian Aerospace Forces aircraft carried out airstrikes," the ministry said in a statement, adding that they "eliminated two hideouts" and "up to 200 militants".


Syria’s upcoming presidential election stirs bitterness, disappointment in refugees

Syria’s upcoming presidential election stirs bitterness, disappointment in refugees
Updated 19 April 2021

Syria’s upcoming presidential election stirs bitterness, disappointment in refugees

Syria’s upcoming presidential election stirs bitterness, disappointment in refugees
  • News that Syria’s embassies had opened for voter registration was met with disappointment by refugees in Lebanon
  • Syrian refugees in Lebanon have been distributed in the Bekaa Valley and on the country’s northern borders since arriving in Lebanon

BEIRUT: Syrian refugees in Lebanon have expressed bitterness and disappointment ahead of elections that are expected to keep President Bashar Assad in office.

The Syrian Parliament has set May 26 as the date for the poll.

Assad won in 2014 with more than 88 percent of the Syrian vote. He has not officially announced his candidacy to run in next month’s election.

News that Syria’s embassies had opened for voter registration was met with disappointment by refugees in Lebanon, who also expressed their frustration with the international community.

Abu Ahmad Souaiba, speaking on behalf of the Voice of Syrian Refugees in Lebanon, said the revolution was launched to “achieve freedom and dignity.”

“Our disappointment today is great because of the failure to implement (UN) Security Council resolutions, which call for power transition not the re-election of Bashar Assad one more time,” he told Arab News.

Syrian refugees in Lebanon have been distributed in the Bekaa Valley and on the country’s northern borders since arriving in Lebanon, with the majority of those who took part in the revolution against Assad concentrated in the Arsal area.

“There are three segments of Syrians in Lebanon,” said Souaiba. “One segment includes families who have been living in Lebanon since before the revolution and those who are not affiliated with the opposition. The second includes the opposition, and these migrated to Lebanon in 2013 and 2014 because of the barrels of death (barrel bombs). The third includes those who are neither with the opposition nor with the regime, and those (people) came to Lebanon because of the economic crisis and are concerned about obtaining their livelihood and the sustenance of their families.”

According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the number of registered Syrian refugees in Lebanon decreased to 865,500 by the end of Dec. 2020.

Lebanon called on the UNHCR to suspend new registrations at the beginning of 2015. 

About 55,000 have returned to Syria in recent years as part of repatriation efforts by Lebanese General Security and as part of a reconciliation program sponsored by Hezbollah in some Syrian towns.

Rumors are circulating that Hezbollah has set up committees to fill out census forms with the number of Syrian refugees present in certain areas ahead of taking them to voting stations on polling day.

Talk of a Hezbollah census has coincided with information that the Ministry of Interior is waiting for UNHCR data in order to prepare a mechanism for calculating the number of Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

The ministry has been assigned this task in coordination with the Ministry of Social Affairs, Lebanese General Security and the UNHCR.

Arab News contacted UNHCR spokesperson Lisa Abu Khaled, but she refused to comment and only said there was “currently no refugee census.”

Souaiba believed there was no need to recount the refugees because, around six weeks ago, a census was carried out by NGOs under the supervision of Lebanese military intelligence for refugees in camps and settlements, specifically in the Arsal area which is open to the land connecting Lebanese and Syrian territories.

He also said there was news from inside Syria of hunger, even in Damascus, and painted a bleak picture of people’s desperation to escape.

“There is no fuel and no electricity,” he added. “A woman who fled to Lebanon with her children told me that her husband was arrested by Syrian authorities and his fate is still unknown. She is almost dying of starvation with her children. She preferred to flee to Lebanon with her children and borrowed $100 to pay the smuggler. She thought that in Lebanon she would receive some food, and this is better than hunger in Syria.”

A UNHCR study estimated that 89 percent of Syrian refugee families were living below the extreme poverty line in Lebanon in 2020, compared to 55 percent in 2019.