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Kuwait to continue ban on visas for Philippines workers after talks fail to resolve labour dispute

May 25, 2023 at 8:46 pm

A Kuwait Airways Boeing B777 aircraft prepares to land at Kuwait International Airport in Kuwait City on 13 March 2019 [Yasser Al-Zayyat/AFP/ Getty]

Kuwait is maintaining a ban it imposed on issuing visas for workers from the Philippines amid an ongoing labour row between the two countries which talks have failed to resolve.

After Filipino authorities alleged failure to comply with a labour agreement it previously reached with Kuwait, the Gulf nation suspended the issuance of all visas for Filipino workers earlier this month.

According to Kuwait, the ban was imposed in response to “wrong practices” made by the Philippines’ embassy in the country and the alleged crimes committed by some members of the Filipino community against Kuwaitis.

Amongst the reported violations listed by Kuwait’s Public Authority of Manpower (PAM) were attempts to get domestic labour recruitment offices to withdraw Filipino house workers from Kuwaitis’ households on the pretext that their employment contracts were completed, putting pressure on employers to renew contracts with undesirable conditions, and circumventing competent agencies in Kuwait by directly contacting Kuwaiti citizens and recruitment offices to check on matters with the Philippines’ embassy.

In addition, PAM cited the “inappropriate treatment” of Kuwaiti citizens who were checking with the Philippines’ embassy upon its request, and the embassy was also accused of sheltering Filipino workers who violated Kuwait’s residency law or were registered as absentees.

From the Philippines’ side, however, it has for years insisted that its workers in the small Gulf nation face abuse and poor treatment, forcing Manila to demand greater rights for their citizens.

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In a statement by PAM, Kuwait’s First Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister, Talal Al Khalid, asserted that “Kuwait’s sovereignty and its people’s dignity are a red line”. The statement added that Kuwait is committed to international accords signed with the Philippines and the renewal of Filipinos’ valid residency permits.

In talks this month, requested by the Filipino government, Kuwait set a number of conditions for resolving the dispute, including the embassy’s acknowledgment of having committed violations and infringing Kuwaiti laws, and for it to make an official pledge to not repeat them in the future. Kuwait also requested that it notify the Philippine government of the acknowledgment and the pledge, and to have them published in official media

Only after then, Kuwait said, would its Interior Ministry evaluate the situation, as well as follow up on the embassy’s abidance by security regulations for at least three months before deciding what it sees fit to do.

The Filipino delegation asked for 72 hours to check with its government on the conditions set by the Kuwaiti side, which were rejected by Manila.

As a result, Kuwait has said that its decision to suspend the issuance of all visas for Filipinos will continue “until further notice”, with First Deputy Prime Minister, Al Khalid, directing PAM to coordinate with the Foreign Ministry to reach agreements with other countries for the provision of skilled workers to Kuwait.

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