Thursday, 17 April 2008

With another OFW in Kuwait death row

Press Release16 April 2008 For reference: Ramon Bultron
Managing Director Tel. No.: (852) 94773141
With another OFW in Kuwait death rowMigrant group scores "failure" of RP gov't protection and servicesWith the successive cases of death sentences on OFWs and the exposes on abuses and maltreatment that Filipina domestic workers in Kuwait suffer from, it has become even more evident that the Philippine government's services and protection to its nationals there are miserable failures. This was the statement of Ramon Bultron, managing director of the HK-based regional group Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants (APMM) following the news that another OFW, Jakatia Pawa, has been sentenced to death for allegedly killing her employer's 21-year old daughter. Pawa's sentence followed from the heels of the Kuwait Supreme Court's upholding of the death sentence to another OFW, May Vecina. "Their nationals are put in the gallows one after another. What is the government doing to assist them and even more importantly, what actions are done to address the abusive conditions these OFWs are made to suffer from prior to their alleged crimes?" Bultron remarked. Bultron relayed that there have been reports of serious violations of rights of Filipino migrant workers in Kuwait and the lackluster protection and assistance that the Philippine government gives to the distressed migrant workers. According to the group, the Philippine Embassy in Kuwait itself admitted that 4,225 of its nationals, mostly domestic workers escaped from their employers in 2006. Supposedly this was reduced to 3,000 in 2007. This was due to physical, mental, and sexual abuse; non-payment and/or delay of salaries; and other abuses. The Assistance to Nationals section, on the other hand, reported that there were 98 rape cases in 2006. "A study by the Social Work Society of Kuwait among domestic helpers revealed that about 47% of them experience verbal abuse, are overworked, given insufficient time to sleep. Treated badly, beaten up, accused of stealing and beaten by sons of their employer. Aside from this, only about 25% of them get a weekly day off from work," Bultron said.The group said that some placement agencies, including those based in Kuwait, also disallow those working in homes to have the right to have a cell phone. It is alleged that even Escalani, the biggest agency in Kuwait strip searches domestic helpers to find if they have sim cards in their possession. Bultron also reported that legitimate complaints of domestic helpers even when they are raped are rendered null and void if they are charged by their employers with absconding and/or theft. They can be taken from the POLO shelter and be detained for a maximum of seven months. "It is significant to note that the likes of Marilou Ranario, whose sentence was commuted to life imprisonment after intense pressure was exerted by OFWs around the world, and May Vecina have also undergone abuses. Sadly though, the response of the Philippine government to the situation of their nationals remain nil or at best, minimal," he lamented. Bultron cited the cases of Filipino workers at Kuwait & Gulf Link Transport Co. and at Al Messa Medicare Co. whom he said were not sufficiently assisted by the Philippine Embassy in Kuwait with their complaints. "Workers at KGL were even discouraged by government officials from complaining. Embassy officials also agreed with the management of Al Essa to designate leaders of the protesting workers there as agitators for allegedly 'disturbing other employees'. It took significant public attention to their plight before the government even addressed their complaints," he added. Finally, Bultron reiterated the demand from different OFW groups in the Philippines and in other countries for the Philippine government to act swiftly and appeal for the life of Vecina and Pawa. "While we appeal for His Highness, the Amir of Kuwait, to spare the lives of Vecina and Pawa, we also call on to the government to provide full, swift and unconditional assistance to Vecina and Pawa as well as the other OFWs in Kuwait who are languishing in jails. Moreso, it must get its act together to curb the abuses suffered by their nationals and improve their protection and services to distressed Filipino migrants," he concluded.

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