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

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

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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