Signs of improvement seen as countries move to abolish kafala system
Government need not stop Filipino workers bound for the Middle East
MANILA – Labor and Employment Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III may have raised concerns about the abuses committed on foreign workers in the Middle East due to the kafala system.
Speaking at the Virtual Presser hosted by PCOO Asst. Secretary Jayvee Arcena, Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs Sarah Lou Ysmael Arriola said countries in the Middle East are on their way to the complete abolition of the system.
“We can see that the countries in the Middle East particularly the Gulf Cooperation Council are moving towards the abolition or complete reform of the kafala system,” she added as she called for patience with the process which she described as “not easy.”
Undersecretary Arriola said it was the first time the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s Undersecretary for Human Resources directly answered questions from Filipino workers.
“It never happened before,” she said.
Undersecretary Arriola said the Saudis are listening to concerns raised by Filipino workers because of their “Vision 2030” where they want to make the expatriates’ live better and “at the same time they want their labor market to be more competitive and more attractive to investors as it is also a Human Rights issue.”
She said the good diplomatic relations with Middle Eastern countries have helped which started when the Philippines negotiated for support for the Global Compact for Migration which was sponsored by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
Undersecretary Arriola said the partnership with the Kingdom of Bahrain was observed by different Middle Eastern countries which apparently convinced them to work with the workers’ country of origin.
She also commended Middle Eastern countries for including expatriates in their immunization programs which would make Filipino workers more mobile should they find the need to look for better-paying work. She also credited President Rodrigo Duterte for bringing to the attention of the Middle Eastern countries the plight of Filipino workers at the hands of their abusive employers.
Despite the criticisms from President Duterte, Middle Eastern countries and the Philippines continued to work together to uphold the best practices.
There have been reports the kafala system has been abolished for highly-skilled workers but has remained enforced among domestic workers and low-skilled workers in several countries.
A check with DFA and BSP figures revealed Filipino workers from five countries sent a total of US$4,186,538,000.00 last year. There were 2,278,037 Filipinos in these countries. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia had 865,121 Filipinos who sent US$1,811,538,000.00, United Arab Emirates where 1,070,615 Filipinos worked sent US$1,287,255,000.00. Filipinos from Qatar who numbered 242,609 sent US$820,402,000.00 while the 48,037 Filipinos in Oman sent US$386,091,000.00.
Bahrain-based Filipinos, 51,655 of them sent US$228,554,000.00. (Melo M. Acuna)
File Photos from Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1. (Melo M. Acuna)