March 17, 2018 / 3:27 PM / in 8 months

Kuwait reaches deal with Philippines on domestic workers: KUNA

DUBAI (Reuters) - Kuwait and the Philippines have signed an agreement regulating some working conditions for domestic workers in the Gulf State, Kuwait’s state news agency KUNA reported on Saturday.

Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) from Kuwait gather upon arrival at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Pasay city, Metro Manila, Philippines February 21, 2018. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco

The deal may end a two-month crisis sparked by reports that abuse by employers in Kuwait had driven several Filipinos to suicide.

The Philippines stopped sending workers to Kuwait in January after a Filipino migrant worker was found dead in a freezer, the latest incident in what Manila called a pattern of abuse in the Gulf state.

KUNA said a deal was signed in Manila on Friday after a meeting between a visiting Kuwaiti delegation and Filipino authorities.

“The deal will ensure the rights of both employers and employees,” KUNA quoted Foreign Ministry Undersecretary for Consulate Affairs Sami Al-Hamad as saying.

Al-Hamad said the two sides agreed that domestic workers from the Philippines will have the right to retain their passports as well as the right to refuse being transferred to other employers.

There was no immediate comment from the Philippines government.

Workers in many Gulf states are employed under the Kafala (sponsorship) system, which gives employers the right to keep their passports and full control over their stay in the country.

Rights groups say this system leaves millions of workers in the Gulf region open to exploitation.

The delegation asked that hiring domestic Filipino workers resume at Kuwaiti agencies, KUNA said.

There are more than 250,000 Filipinos in Kuwait, the Philippine foreign ministry estimates, with most working as domestic helpers. There are also large numbers in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Reporting By Aziz El Yaakoubi, Additional reporting by Jerome Morales in Manila; Editing by Hugh Lawson

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