Habib Toumi, Bureau Chief
Manama: A much-trumpeted agreement to recruit Ethiopian domestic helpers to work in Kuwait ahead of Ramadan has yet to clear several hurdles.
Earlier this month, Interior Ministry’s Assistant Undersecretary for Citizenship and Passports Affairs Shaikh Mazen Al Sabah said in a statement that Kuwait had lifted the ban on hiring Ethiopian domestic workers after a series of meetings with representatives from the Ethiopian government.
One reason for lifting the ban imposed in 2014 was based on compassionate grounds since the holy month of Ramadan is approaching, “which invariably means more household chores for Kuwaiti families.”
However, Ethiopia’s Ambassador to Kuwait Abdul Aziz Ahmad said that his country had not yet lifted the ban on allowing its citizens to work in Kuwait.
The diplomat said that they are still waiting for a response to the letter they presented to the Kuwaiti Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Kuwaiti daily Al Rai reported on Wednesday.
The letter included a draft of the new agreement on the return of Ethiopian workers to Kuwait, he added.
A major item in the new deal is to grant Ethiopian workers a paid annual holiday and the two sides should agree on its duration.
The deal also stipulates that the workers keep their passports with them or at the Ethiopian embassy.
The working hours should also be clearly mentioned and the Ethiopian workers should be given salaries that are equal to those received by helpers from other countries, according to the draft.
“The ball is now in the Kuwaiti court and whenever we receive the response to our letter, we will agree on a date for the visit by the Ethiopian minister of labour to sign the agreement to have Ethiopian workers in Kuwait,” the ambassador said.
The embassy of Ethiopia is one of 11 diplomatic missions in Kuwait contacted by the local authorities to coordinate the hiring of workers and reinvigorate the local market.
The contacts are part of steps taken by Kuwait to help address deepening challenges in recruiting domestic workers.
In January, Kuwait’s domestic work was hit hard after the Philippines stopped sending workers to the Gulf state following reports that abuse by employers there had driven several Filipinos to suicide.
The decision, involving thousands of helpers, sparked a crisis in Kuwait, prompting all the state agencies to seek prompt solutions.