04/04/2018, 10.07
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Kuwait looks to Ethiopia to stem the crisis of Filipino workers

The goal is to bridge the "deficit" that has arisen following Manila’s blocking of consignments and "reducing costs". The death of a 29-year-old Filipina had triggered the fight between Duterte and the Kuwaiti authorities. The theme of migrant workers is often the focus of Pope Francis' interventions.

Kuwait City (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Kuwait looks to Ethiopian migrant workers, to fill the "deficit" that has arisen in the field of domestic workers. A crisis triggered by the murder of a Filipina maid in the rich Arab emirate, and which had pushed President Rodrigo Duterte to start a tug-of-war with Kuwait, resulting in the blocking of new workers and the repatriation of 10 thousand migrants.

The measure ordered by Manila follows the discovery, at the beginning of February, of the body of 29 year-old Joanna Demafelis, a Filipina maid. Her body, with evident signs of torture, was stored for over a year in a freezer to conceal her disappearance.

In a note, General Talal Al-Maarifi, head of the Kuwait Department of Housing Affairs, emphasizes that the goal is to "open the door to the recruitment of Ethiopian workers". An urgent need, to make up for the "deficit" that has been created in the sector of domestic workers and to "reduce costs".

In recent years, activists and human rights NGOs have repeatedly raised the alarm about the status of migrant workers in the Gulf and, more generally, in Arab nations, according to the so-called kafala system (sponsor). A theme dear to Pope Francis, who has intervened several times to raise the awareness of governments and authorities.

In January, the government of the Philippines had suspended the sending of workers to Kuwait, after Duterte had declared that the abuses by employers have prompted several domestic workers to commit suicide. Over 2.3 million Filipinos are registered as foreign workers. They send more than 1.6 billion euros home every month, money that feeds one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Manila now looks to China and Russia as "alternative markets" for Filipino migrant workers.

Five years ago, Ethiopia imposed a ban that was similar to the one issued by Manila, following a series of allegations of abuse and violence. Migrants often operated in total illegality and in conditions of semi-slavery. Addis Ababa removed the provision on March 29th.

Maarifi says there are over 15 thousand Ethiopian immigrants living and working in the Arab country today. In March 2017, the police arrested a woman for filming her Ethiopian employee who fell from the seventh floor of their building without intervening and saving her. The video shows the maid suspended in the void and begging for help.

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