Murdered Kuwait OFWs deserve decisive gov’t action

January 25, 2023

PRESS STATEMENT

January 25, 2023

Migrante International condoles with the family and friends of Jullebee Ranara, the 35-year old Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) and domestic worker whose burned body was found buried in a Kuwaiti desert on Sunday and who is suspected to have been murdered by the son of her employer.

We condemn this yet another murder of our kababayan, another Filipina, in Kuwait. Jullebee’s murder is the latest in a controversial series that includes Joanna Daniela Demafelis (2018), Constancia Lago Dayag (2019), and Jeanelyn Villavende (2019). There are also more than 400 distressed OFWs staying in cramped Philippine government facilities in Kuwait.

The recent deaths and abuse suffered by our kababayans in Kuwait are not isolated incidents and point to conditions in Kuwait and other countries that make our OFWs vulnerable to abuse and even murder.

In light of the successive deaths and abuse of our kababayans in Kuwait, Migrante-International calls on the Philippine government to:
(1) Seek justice for Jullebee. Her murderers must be brought to court and imprisoned.
(2) Order the Philippine Embassy in Kuwait to be more alert and attentive to OFWs’ complaints and cries for help. Expand repatriation and other services for distressed OFWs there.
(3) Probe and punish possible neglect of duty among Philippine officials in Kuwait, as shown by the deplorable conditions suffered by distressed OFWs in the country.
(4) Push for measures that will alleviate the working and living conditions of Filipino domestic workers and OFWs in Kuwait.
(5) In particular, push for reforms in, if not the abolition of, the kafala system, which has meant total employer control over domestic workers and OFWs.

These are all, however, band-aid solutions; they can only do so much to protect our OFWs. Foreign domestic work and labor migration are highly unequal setups that bring with them great risks of abuse for migrant workers, especially those coming from countries with uncaring labor brokerage governments.

As long as the Philippine government and economy remain highly-dependent on migrant Filipinos’ remittances, cases of abuse and even murder of our kababayans will not end. The real solution is an end to the government’s Labor Export Program and the generation of decent jobs within the country which, we believe, are only possible through genuine land reform and national industrialization.

It is clear that President Rodrigo Duterte’s OFW ban to Kuwait in 2018 and his appeal to Arab countries to treat OFWs with dignity and respect are failures. New contracts stipulating one day-off for OFWs per week and their working and sleeping hours are not enough. The Department of Migrant Workers’ thrust of promoting labor export is totally misguided.

It’s time that the Philippine government undertake both immediate measures to protect our domestic workers and OFWs abroad and long-term measures to generate decent jobs in the Philippines.###

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