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Church seeks justice for Filipino migrant raped, killed in Kuwait

In 2022, nearly 6,000 cases of abuse of Filipino workers were reported, a majority in the Middle Eastern countries
Filipino labor group Kilusang Mayo organizes a protest rally in the capital Manila on Jan. 25 to demand justice for Jullebee Ranara, 35, a Filipino migrant worker raped and murdered in Kuwait

Filipino labor group Kilusang Mayo organizes a protest rally in the capital Manila on Jan. 25 to demand justice for Jullebee Ranara, 35, a Filipino migrant worker raped and murdered in Kuwait. (Photo supplied) 

Published: January 25, 2023 11:58 AM GMT
Updated: January 25, 2023 12:06 PM GMT

A top Catholic bishop joined labor activists in the Philippines to demand justice for a female migrant worker allegedly murdered after rape in Kuwait.

The call has been made after the authorities in the Middle Eastern country found the body of Jullebee Ranara, 35, buried in a desert on Jan. 22.

Ranara was raped and murdered before her body was buried in a desert, Kuwaiti police said following an autopsy.

The autopsy report also revealed she was pregnant at the time of her death, Kuwaiti newspaper Al Rai reported.

“We cannot just turn a blind eye to what happened to her,” said Bishop Narciso Abellana, head of Pastoral Care for Migrants and Itinerant People of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines.  

“All governments, regardless of religious denomination, should understand the importance of the dignity of the human person even if he or she is a domestic helper,” the prelate told UCA News.

Left-leaning labor group, Kilusang Mayo, organized a protest rally in front of the Department of Foreign Affairs in the capital Manila on Jan. 25, to pressure the Kuwait government to bring the perpetrators to justice.

“Although we are happy that the suspect has been arrested, we hope justice will be served to our fellow overseas worker after the brutal death and treatment she suffered,” the group’s spokesman Gerard Urbano told UCA news.

The labor group said Philippine migrant authorities should double-check labor contracts with Middle Eastern countries to safeguard the rights of Filipino workers.

“A heinous crime was committed against a Filipino overseas worker… this is not an isolated case. There have been cases of abuse in the past, yet our government has not even revisited our laborers’ contracts to make sure they are protected,” Urbano said.

According to a 2021 report from the Philippine Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, Filipino overseas workers have been experiencing rising sexual abuse in Middle Eastern countries.

“Sadly, our domestic workers are excluded from labor laws in Middle Eastern countries. It is painful to see our workers move to the Middle East to work but face sexual abuse. Some tribes in the Middle East gave this notion that if you’re a domestic worker or a paid person working for them, sexual abuse becomes a part of your work,” Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Sarah Arriola told reporters.

In January 2021, 60 percent of Filipina women who work in the Middle East were subjected to the “kafala” system, which bound migrant workers to their employers, resulting in the confiscation of their passports until their contracts came to an end, according to the Philippine Information Agency.

Despite the danger, thousands of Filipino workers risked their lives to work in the Middle East for a better living, according to experts.

“It’s a human phenomenon of self-sacrifice. Our mothers would rather serve in a foreign country just to feed their children. Despite the overwhelming abuse that happens there, many of our mothers take the risk for a better future for their kids,” Filipino sociologist David Cue told UCA News.

Government data shows that more than 2.22 million Filipinos were employed in various countries as of January 2021. Saudi Arabia had the highest number of Filipino migrants with an estimated 865,121 and followed by 648,929 workers in the United Arab Emirates.

In 2022, nearly 6,000 cases of maltreatment and abuse of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) had been reported, the majority of which came from the Middle East with 5,201 cases, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority. Only about 200 cases were moved to the courts.

This comes despite the fact Filipino migrants send home billions of dollars each year, making vital contributions to the economy.

In 2022, Filipino expatriates remitted about 155 billion pesos (US$3.1 billion), according to the Finance Department.

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