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Phl, Qatar continue talks for protection of migrant workers

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NEW YORK CITY, New York — Building on the success of Qatar’s labor reforms, the Philippines will continue to engage the country on initiatives for safer and freer migration of Filipinos, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said during a side event in the International Migration Review Forum (IMRF) at the United Nations Headquarters here on Tuesday, 17 May.

The Philippines and Qatar hosted a side event centered on ensuring fair recruitment and decent working conditions within both states’ recruitment corridors, for the promotion of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration (GCM) and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The side event highlighted various practices and initiatives of both states, as well as future steps to further ensure and safeguard decent work and migrants rights that may be adopted as well by other countries of origin and destination.

“Our countries have worked together to reform a sponsorship system and develop a migration policy to better protect migrant workers,” Permanent Representative of the Philippines to the United Nations in Geneva Evan P. Garcia said, who presided over the forum.

DFA Assistant Secretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs Paul Raymund Cortes also lauded Qatar’s kafala-related reforms which had notably helped the Philippines in its repatriation efforts, especially at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

“Of course, the most notable among the many reforms of Qatar was the abolition of the Kafala system, which effectively broke the contractual bondage of migrant workers with their employers,” Assistant Secretary Cortes said.

Expatriate workers in Qatar, according to Cortes, now enjoy the increased labor mobility with the abolition of the No Objection Certificate (NOC) to transfer jobs on-site without having to exit Qatar first and return with a new visa for work purposes.

“The Philippines welcomes this reform, as it has relatively lessened issues/problems of Filipino workers wanting to transfer jobs without erstwhile restrictive rules to transfer sponsorship, which leaves migrant workers at the mercy of their employers,” Asec. Cortes added.

Qatar’s Ministry of Labour Undersecretary Mohammed Hassan Al Obaidly, meanwhile, recognized the importance of the series of meetings and consultations conducted with the Philippines in assisting Qatar with labor reforms to provide legal protection not only for the overseas Filipino workers but also for other migrant workers in the state.

This was furthered by Qatar’s Ministry of Interior representative Ali Ahmad Al Kuwari, stating that the benefits the Qatar Visa Centers in various states, such as in the Philippines, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Tunisia, among others, have significantly  provided advantages for the protection of workers rights by providing them with electronic work contracts and for the avoidance of visa exploitation.

Assistant Secretary Cortes also described the QVC as a good model for trafficking and illegal recruitment prevention “worthy of emulation by other countries of destination of migrant workers.”

The successes of the constructive and responsive actions by both states toward the promotion of migrant rights and the achievement of the 23 objectives under the GCM have been echoed by Deputy Director General of the International Organization for Migration Amy Pope as an effective model for government-to-government collaboration and cooperation.

“As our countries move forward, the Philippines will continue to engage Qatar on its labor reform initiatives and work the signing and subsequent implementation of a bilateral agreement to tackle human trafficking and its pernicious effects,” Assistant Secretary Cortes said.

The DFA official underscored that, although there are pending labor issues that have been recognized, both states are working together and are in discussion in response to these through the conclusion of a Memorandum of Understanding to Combat Human Trafficking.

Moreover, the Philippines also expressed its gratitude to Qatar and other countries for helping the government in the repatriation of thousands of Filipino migrant workers during the height of the pandemic.

The side event with the State of Qatar is a part of the string of meetings and engagements of the Philippine delegation at the first International Migration Review Forum, the primary intergovernmental global platform to discuss and share progress on the implementation of all aspects of the GCM with the participation of all relevant stakeholders.

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