Oct 182014

Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
2006-03-25 13:02
2011-08-30 01:44
Embassy Kuwait

DE RUEHKU #1041/01 0841302
P 251302Z MAR 06




E.O. 12958: N/A

¶B. KUWAIT 436
¶C. 05 KUWAIT 263
¶D. 04 KUWAIT 350
¶E. 03 KUWAIT 5561

¶1. (U) Summary and Comment. PolOff and PolAssistant
visited the Domestic Worker Administration (DWA) on March 18,
and PolOff followed up with an unannounced visit to the DWA
on March 22 to see how the GOK deals with domestic workers
who have complaints. The DWA’s role, as reported to Emboffs
by General Manager Colonel Esam No’mani, is to find, through
consultation and negotiation, fast, practical solutions to
problems brought by domestic workers. While the DWA needs
more authority and resources, the DWA represents a way for
workers to obtain most or all of their missed wages and
quickly exit work situations they find unacceptable. It
appears to be most effective at resolving disputes over
salaries and benefits; cases involving allegations of
physical or sexual abuse are referred to the Office of the
Public Prosecutor. Encouraging the GOK to build on native
institutions such as the DWA, in addition to continued ESF
funding for projects like FALCon (ref C) and RESPECT (ref A),
will provide positive tools to help combat TIP and promote
respect for human rights. End Summary and Comment.

The Domestic Worker Administration (DWA)

¶2. (SBU) The DWA is a division of the Ministry of Interior
(MOI), which is responsible for the administrative and legal
status of domestic workers in Kuwait. It is housed on the
upper floor of the Adiliya police station and administered by
uniformed MOI officers as well as civilian lawyers.

¶3. (SBU) Domestic workers may not go directly to the DWA.
They must report to their embassy or their local police
station if they have a complaint, and from there they are
referred to the DWA. If they report to a police station,
they have the option of filing a case against an employer,
but many employees justifiably fear that the employer will
immediately retaliate by filing an “absconding” case. This
results in the domestic worker being kept in jail until the
case can be passed to the investigator and eventually be
resolved, often by deportation. If the worker reports to an
embassy and is referred to the DWA, however, the worker will
not end up in jail and the DWA, together with the embassy,
will strive to negotiate a solution without resorting to
formal legal action.

Three Days per Week for Filipina Domestic Worker Cases
——————————————— ———

¶4. (SBU) On Saturdays, Mondays, and Wednesdays, the
Philippines Embassy is allowed to bring in domestic workers
to have their cases mediated. All other countries bring
their workers on Sundays and Tuesdays. Comment: Filipinas
get more days than other nationalities because, although they
make up only about 10 percent of domestic workers in Kuwait,
they are much more assertive in demanding their rights and
make up a disproportionate percentage of workers seeking
redress. Filipinas’ greater assertiveness is likely due to
two factors: (a) they have relatively higher levels of
education, with high school or even university degrees not
uncommon and (b) the well-regulated domestic labor office
industry in the Philippines appears to do a better job of
preparing them for overseas employment. Also, workers from
other countries often have to borrow heavily to pay
exorbitant fees to come to Kuwait. Therefore they are more
vulnerable to manipulative employers since they cannot return
home empty-handed. Filipinas, at least in part because of
the effective oversight of domestic labor offices, pay little
or nothing to obtain work contracts to come to Kuwait, and
therefore have less to lose by leaving a bad employer and
perhaps being sent home. This emphasizes the importance of
source country prevention efforts. End Comment.

¶5. (SBU) On Wednesday, March 22, PolOff observed James
Mendiola, from the Philippines Embassy, working to resolve
domestic workers’ cases one at a time as approximately 30
Filipinas waited in the hallway that serves as a lobby. Each
worker entered the office where Mendiola and Salim, the
Kuwaiti negotiator, had respectively the English and Arabic
copy of the worker’s file. After reviewing the case, Salim
called the sponsor to come to the office to resolve the case,
consulting the entire time with Mendiola about acceptable

KUWAIT 00001041 002 OF 003

Employer Claimed Maid Practiced Magic

¶6. (SBU) One maid seeking assistance had not been paid in 8
months. Her Kuwaiti employer, a Kuwait National Guard
employee, arrived at the station and told PolOff that he
agreed to pay the 8 months of salary, claiming that he had
been holding the salary as insurance that she did not run
away. He had told her he did not want her to work for him
anymore because she had been practicing black magic. He had
then put her to work for a relative, who also did not like
her. The employer agreed to pay fines of 50 Dinars (171 USD)
the maid had incurred for being out of status, but not to pay
for her airline ticket home, which is normally the sponsor’s
responsibility. In response to PolOff’s question of why she
accepted not getting the plane ticket, Mendiola stated that
domestic workers would try to get what they could rather than
attempting to get absolutely everything and facing a
drawn-out court battle. The Embassy, the DWA, the employer,
and the worker all signed that they agreed on the settlement
terms and money was exchanged.

Employer Was Holding Worker’s Salary for “Safekeeping”
——————————————— ———

¶7. (SBU) Another maid claimed her sponsor owed her 16
months of salary. The sponsor produced a signed salary book
(a requirement of all domestic labor employers in Kuwait) as
proof that he had paid the first nine months. The maid said
that her employer had been keeping the salary so it would not
be lost, but that she was not given the money when she asked
for it. This was the second time the sponsor had been called
by the DWA. The sponsor had agreed to pay 4 months salary
the first time. This time, however, Salim was able to
convince the sponsor to pay the seven months for which there
was no proof of payment.

Case Unresolved

¶8. (SBU) In the third case observed by PolOff, the maid had
not been paid for three months. According to Mr. Mendiola,
she was dissatisfied with her Kuwait experience and wanted to
go home rather than try another employer. Her case was not
resolved. She will stay at the Philippines Embassy shelter,
a large room that was occupied by approximately 250 workers
on a March 19 visit by PolOff. Her case is not atypical, as
most workers need to come to the DWA several times before
their sponsor can be brought in.

DWA’s Approach: Practical Solutions

¶9. (SBU) General Manager No’mani admitted that the DWA has
no power to impose any punishments on sponsors who violate
their contracts, such as fines or restrictions on sponsoring
domestic workers in the future. He told PolOff “I’m not a
judge.” He agreed that some sort of penalty would be a good
idea, but in the meantime his role was to broker an
acceptable solution for both parties. When PolOff asked if
it were not possible to hire a few more negotiators, he said
that they were hoping for a new, larger facility where that
would be possible. He also told PolOff they would get a
computerized system to track cases when they moved to a new
building. He did not have an idea when that might be. In
cases where an agreement cannot be reached, the domestic
worker can file a case. Mendiola asserted that this can take
up to two years, so most workers prefer to reach a
settlement. Mendiola feels that the DWA needs stronger
powers to convince employers to cooperate, but that its
activities over the past year represent a tangible
improvement in the situation. He agreed with No’mani’s
assessment that most workers are able to recover most or all
of the wages due to them. In non-salary cases, such as
beatings and sexual harassment, the DWA transfers the case to
the Public Prosecutor’s Office.

Shelter: a Welcome Idea

¶10. (SBU) In response to a question about a shelter,
No’mani responded enthusiastically that this would be a great
idea. He reiterated what his superior, General Abdullah
Al-Ruweih, told PolOff at a previous meeting (ref C), i.e.
that this shelter is under study. In a March 19 meeting with
officials from the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor
(MOSAL), PolOff was told that the shelter is currently under
study by the Kuwait Municipality, which is responsible for

KUWAIT 00001041 003 OF 003

allocating land in Kuwait. PolOff contacted Municipality
officials and is waiting for confirmation of an appointment.

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For more reporting from Embassy Kuwait, visit:
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/nea/kuwait/?cable s

Visit Kuwait’s Classified Website:
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