Badrya Darwish

What a jinxed situation. It is so ironic and tragic that I've started believing that the dispute with the Philippines is jinxed. The minute we advance in resolving the dispute, new reports surface that irritate the Philippine president and he takes harsh measures against sending Filipino workers to Kuwait.

Incident after incident - all of them highly attention grabbing - led to the dispute. A Filipina who allegedly committed suicide on New Year's Eve was the sister of a famous social media personality in the Philippines, who immediately shared her tragic story and ignited the ire of Manila. Her suicide was only one of many cases, but it captured the attention of the government due to her brother's celebrity status.

Then the body of the gruesomely murdered Joanna Demafelis was found in a freezer in Maidan Hawally. This triggered the halting of the deployment of all OFWs to Kuwait and especially domestic helpers, though her sponsors were not Kuwaitis and fled to the Levant. Then negotiations started and both sides came to a tentative agreement and news even came that President Duterte might come in late April or early May to sign a deal.

Now look what has happened. A few days ago, embassy staff filmed themselves rescuing a Filipina helper from a home, alleging she was beaten and tortured. We don't know the truth. But why was the rescue mission videotaped and shared on social media? Was it an accidental video and posting? Or does it have its own agenda?

Of course this infuriated the Kuwaiti people and the government. Because legally, the Philippines Embassy broke diplomatic protocols, and also, helping a maid abscond is against the law in Kuwait. But I'm sorry guys - I'm not defending either the Filipinos or our foreign ministry. In all fairness, let me ask you this: If this girl wanted to leave, would she have been allowed to leave the house? Some houses might allow it, but many will not. And I'm sorry, but no one in this country is a slave.

And let's not let this incident overshadow the main problem - which is the failure to protect the rights of workers in Kuwait. This problem has been building for decades. Why till now is there no proper system to protect domestic workers in Kuwait? Is this a nuclear issue that cannot be resolved? This has tarnished Kuwait's reputation. No one wants to send workers to Kuwait. Recently I visited recruitment offices in Hawally and all of them had the same thing to say - countries are shunning away from sending workers to Kuwait.

Now Ramadan is coming and everyone needs extra helpers - even restaurants which cater for iftar and suhoor. But without these workers, it will be a state of chaos. So let's calm down and fix this problem once and for all.

By Badriya Darwish

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