Human Rights Watch backs likely ban on Filipino maids

Watchdog urges other countries to increase measures to protect their nationals working abroad
Household service workers make up a big portion of the eight to 11 million Filipinos working overseas
By Claire Ferris-Lay
Tue 06 Sep 2011 10:57 AM

Human
Rights Watch has praised a decision by the Philippines government that could
ban domestic workers to three Gulf countries and urged other labour exporting
countries to follow suit.

The
US-based watchdog said it remained concerned about the treatment of domestic
workers in the GCC states and called for other governments to step up measures
to better protect their nationals working abroad. 

“Treatment
of migrant domestic workers is a problem throughout the Gulf… It’s very
encouraging that the Philippines would be considering such a move, it is steps
like this that are essential in order to improve the situation for domestic
workers generally,” Joe Stork, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle
East and North Africa division, told Arabian Business.

“Other
labour sending countries should be taking the same kinds of measures or
certainly conducting the same kinds of investigations, and having the same kind
of vigilance on the ground through the embassies and consulates as the
Philippines does,” he added.

Media
reports from Manila on Friday said the Philippines Department of Foreign
Affairs (DFA) had recommended a ban on the deployment of household service
workers to Kuwait, the UAE and Qatar because it could not guarantee their
protection.

Filipino
maids are currently subject to a separate ban from Saudi Arabia after the
kingdom said it was seeking new sources for foreign workers.

The
Department of Labour and Employment said it had made the recommendation after
the three countries failed to comply with Republic Act 10022 or the Amended
Migrant and Overseas Filipino Workers Act of 1995.

According
to Section 3, the Philippines will allow deployment only if the host country
has “existing labour and social laws protecting the rights of workers”.

Labour
Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz confirmed the DFA’s recommendation but said the
Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) had yet to make a
decision.

Household
service workers make up a big portion of the eight to 11 million Filipinos
working overseas.

In
2010, the total deployment of household service staff reached 96,583, with Hong
Kong as the top destination. Kuwait ranked second with 21,554 Filipino domestic
workers followed by UAE with 13,184, and Qatar fifth with 9,937, according to
an industry source.

Human
Rights Watch in April called for governments to work together to endorse
protection for migrant workers living abroad.

The
watchdog urged Ministers from Asian labour-sending countries to pledge support
for a proposed international convention on labour standards for domestic work,
increase civil society participation in future regional dialogues, promote
increased multilateral cooperation, and take measures to eliminate recruitment
fees charged to migrant workers.

“Abuses
against migrants are often linked to gaps in information, poor coordination,
and competition for jobs, so it’s a big deal for these governments to sit
around the table and address these problems together,” Nisha Varia, senior
women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch said.

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