Kuwait’s Visa Suspension Affects Philippine Nationals Working in the Gulf State
Kuwait has indefinitely suspended all new visas for Philippine nationals, the interior ministry confirmed this week, further intensifying the ongoing dispute between the oil-rich Gulf state and Manila regarding worker protections and employer rights. The visa suspension follows the Philippines’ decision in February to halt the deployment of first-time domestic workers to Kuwait after the tragic discovery of the body of domestic worker Jullebee Ranara in the Kuwaiti desert in January.
According to government data, Philippine nationals constitute approximately 6% of Kuwait’s total population of 4.7 million, while Kuwaiti citizens account for 32%. This latest move by Kuwait has raised concerns about the welfare of Filipino workers employed in the country, particularly as many work as low-paid domestic workers and are vulnerable to exploitation due to the visa system, which ties them to a single employer and allows employers to confiscate their passports.
Violation of Bilateral Labour Agreement Cited as Reason for Visa Suspension
The interior ministry of Kuwait declared on Wednesday that the Philippines had violated a bilateral labour agreement signed by the two countries in 2018. The agreement was established following a previous dispute over worker protections after a series of domestic worker deaths. The violations cited by Kuwait include housing workers in shelters, conducting searches for runaways without involving state institutions, unauthorized communication with Kuwaiti citizens, and pressuring Kuwaiti employers to include specific clauses in employment contracts.
This latest development has strained diplomatic relations between Kuwait and the Philippines. In response, the Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs emphasized that their actions are aimed at ensuring the safety and welfare of their nationals working abroad. The department asserted that the protection of citizens abroad is an established duty of consular offices under international law and conventions.
Impact on Philippine Economy and Overseas Workers’ Remittances
The suspension of new visas for Philippine nationals in Kuwait could have significant consequences for the Philippine economy. Remittances from overseas workers, including those in Gulf states like Kuwait, contribute approximately 10% to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). The halt in visa issuance raises concerns about the livelihoods of Filipino workers who rely on jobs abroad to support their families back home.