Kuwaiti social media celebrity Sondos Al Qattan recently drew flak after criticizing the new Kuwait government policy which allows Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) to keep their passports and have four rest days in a month.
Al Qattan was referring to the Kuwait government’s memorandum of agreement signed with the Philippine government providing OFWs an exemption from the “kafala system”.
But, what exactly is the “kafala system”?
Here’s what you need to know:
Over 2 million Filipinos are working in Middle East. Around 260,000 Filipinos work in Kuwait alone.
Filipinos had been among the migrant workers who suffered abuses from their sponsors in the Persian Gulf and Arab countries.
However, the Kuwait government moved to create exemptions to OFWs last May following the death of Joanna Demafelis, a 29-year-old maid who was murdered by her employers. She was found stuffed in a freezer last February, a year after she was reported missing.
Prior this, other horrific tales of Filipino domestic helpers have been recorded including those of Melirose Balagosa and Jenna Baldapan.
In 2015, Balagosa, 25, was caught on tape falling from the fourth floor of her employer’s house in Kuwait. Balagosa said she fell while trying to escape from her employer. Balagosa claimed she was sexually abused.
Meanwhile, in an interview with CNN, Baldapan recalled the maltreatment she suffered from her Kuwaiti employers while working as house helper in 2008. She said her employers would spat on her face. She was only allowed to eat leftover food and sleep on the floor beside the washing machine in a storage room. Baldapan, who came from a poor family in Bukidnon, was not paid for four months straight.
Sources: CNN Philippines, Migrant Workers Organization