Kuwait has said it is open to negotiations with the Philippines on the visa ban for Filipino workers if Manila accepts its demands. The country suspended all new work visas for Philippines citizens indefinitely in an escalation over workers’ protection and employers’ rights last week.
The visa suspension came after Manila stopped sending first-time workers to Kuwait in February after the body of Filipina Jullebee Ranara was found in a desert in January. Kuwait said there had been several employment violations in the Philippine embassy, including housing workers in shelters, searching for runaways without involving state institutions, communicating with Kuwaiti citizens without permission from authorities and pressuring employers to add clauses to work contracts.
Kuwaiti Deputy Foreign Minister Mansour Al Otaibi said: “The Philippine embassy must admit its violation of Kuwaiti laws and the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. “The embassy must also pledge not to repeat its violations and that those responsible for these violations will be held accountable.”
A bilateral meeting was held two weeks ago after the government of the Philippines submitted a request to discuss the latest developments regarding the suspension of worker visas. While Kuwait said it would continue a temporary visa ban on all types of visas issued for Filipino workers, it confirmed it would renew visas for those with a valid residence permit who wished to continue working in the country.
The Philippines and Kuwait signed a labour agreement to regulate domestic workers in 2018 when a dispute between the two countries led to a ban on Filipino workers after the murder of Joanna Demafelis. The killing of 35-year-old Jullebee Ranara this year, allegedly by a Kuwaiti teenager, led the Philippines to review its labour agreement with the country.
Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr said he will not impose a total ban on sending workers to Kuwait despite the recent decision of the Gulf state to suspend the issuing of work visas to Filipinos. “Our workers can return there, especially those who have pending (visa applications),” Mr Marcos said. Almost 270,000 Filipino workers are employed in Kuwait.