Human Rights Watch headquarters in the Empire State Building in New York. Photo: Google Maps

An international human rights group has called on the Philippine government to demand stronger protection for Filipino workers in the Middle East.

On Friday, the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a statement that banning Filipino workers from being deployed to Kuwait would not bring an end to maids being abused in the country.

The statement came after the Philippine government imposed a ban on Filipino workers being sent to Kuwait due to multiple deaths that are now being investigated, plus high rates of physical and sexual abuse in recent years.

“Such a ban would likely do more harm than good, forcing workers to take greater risks to seek overseas employment while cutting off a critical source of income for families in the Philippines,” HRW said.

The group said people desperate to work would still migrate to small state at the top of the Persian Gulf – population 4.2 million – but go via unsafe and unregulated channels, which would expose them to more abuse and trafficking.

Instead of a ban, the HRW advised Manila to demand stronger protection for its migrant workers.

“They should advocate for an end to the abusive kafala (visa sponsorship) system, which ties migrant workers to their employers and prohibits them from leaving or changing jobs without their employer’s permission,” it said.

“They should also call for better enforcement of labor protections and improved cooperation from Middle East governments to work with the Philippines embassy to help rescue workers in distress and conduct investigations into worker deaths,” it said.

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