By B Izzak

KUWAIT: Kuwait suspended all types of work and entry visas for Filipinos on Tuesday after the Asian country allegedly violated a bilateral labor agreement with the state, interior ministry sources told Kuwait Times. They said the suspension came at the orders of Interior Minister Sheikh Talal Al-Khaled Al-Sabah “because Philippines has not complied with the provisions of the labor agreement between the two countries”. The decision was made after “Philippines has breached the conditions and provisions of the labor agreement”, the sources said, adding the decision aims to impose the sovereignty of the state. The Philippine Embassy in Kuwait said late Tuesday it has not been notified yet of any such decision by the Kuwaiti authorities.

Philippines in February halted the deployment of first-time workers, especially domestic helpers, to Kuwait following the gruesome murder of a 35-year old Filipina maid by a Kuwaiti teenager. The body of Jullebee Ranara was found in the desert and the 17-year old son of her employer was detained by police.

Philippine labor officials said in February they planned to engage in negotiations with Kuwait to review the labor agreement which was signed by the two countries in 2018. The agreement was signed following reports of increased abuses against Filipino workers, especially domestic helpers, in Kuwait. There are 268,000 Filipinos working and living in Kuwait.

Earlier, the Kuwait Progressive Movement strongly rejected what it said is the exploitation of expatriate workers in the country, calling on authorities not to single them for blame for the imbalance in the demographic structure, as expats form two-thirds of Kuwait’s population. The rejection came in a statement issued by the leftist movement after the Cabinet announced late Monday the establishment of a national committee to regulate the population in the country, mainly to reduce the number of expats.

The statement rejected “the discriminatory proposition that holds expats responsible for the demographic imbalance, which was the result of several factors, including visa trade and recruitment of foreign workers because their wages are much lower”. The movement said expat workers face a series of discriminatory measures including low wages, delayed or unpaid salaries, long working hours, confiscation of passports and others. It decried the kafala or sponsorship system, describing it as a form of slavery, where foreign workers are forcibly bonded to their employers.