2-day PH-Kuwait meeting fails to resolve visa issue
The two-day meeting between the Philippine and Kuwaiti governments over the latter’s sudden suspension of new entry visas for Filipinos ended on Wednesday with still no resolution in sight, but only provided the Philippine side with a clearer and official explanation for the decision, which had again strained labor relations between the two countries.
A senior official of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Thursday said the Kuwaiti government mainly had a problem with the shelters being operated by the Philippine Embassy for distressed overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) rescued from abusive employers in the Gulf state.
Officials of the Kuwaiti interior ministry maintained that these foreign-operated shelters “infringe on their sovereignty,” Foreign Undersecretary Eduardo de Vega told the Inquirer in an interview.
The Kuwaiti officials did not expressly demand the closure of the Philippine shelters but only said that Kuwaiti-run shelters be used instead for such purposes, he added.
They also did not expound on which provisions of the 2018 labor agreement between the two countries were allegedly violated, De Vega noted.
“The overall measures we’re doing to protect our workers, they feel (these efforts) would infringe on their sovereignty. For example, if the Filipinos have a criminal case and they’re being kept in the shelter,” De Vega said.
But the DFA official explained that the Philippine government remained bound by its own laws to extend protection to Filipino citizens abroad, and that “compromising” this mandate was nonnegotiable.
“[It] is a well-established duty of consular offices under international law and conventions,” he added. “For us to violate our own laws mandating Philippine embassies to put up a center for Filipinos, just so that we could convince any foreign country to resume hiring our workers, would be dishonorable. The Filipino people have more dignity than that.”
The Philippine delegation explained to Kuwait that the actions taken by the embassy were simply meant to “ensure the safety and welfare of Filipino nationals.”
The government operates a Migrant Workers Resource Center—also known as “Bahay Kalinga”—in Kuwait, which as of Thursday housed 466 distresssed OFWs.
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