Diplomatic Briefing

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Archive for May 25, 2023

Newsline: Four Filipinas sue Pakistani diplomat employers in Switzerland for slavery

On the morning of her court hearing, Virginia woke up with cold clammy hands and feet, gasping for air. She was having another panic attack. “Never in my life did I imagine that I would find myself in a courtroom facing lawyers in a foreign country,” the 46-year-old Filipina told Al Jazeera. Virginia filed a case against her diplomat employers at the Pakistan Mission in Geneva, Switzerland, alleging she had been unpaid for more than 20 years. The contract, which she signed in the Philippines in 1999, indicated a monthly salary of 1,200 Swiss francs ($1,329) for a 40-hour week, along with board and lodging as well as health insurance. Virginia, then a 22-year-old mother of two, found out after arriving in Geneva that she was expected to work for the Pakistan Mission three times a week without a salary. It would be up to her to find other jobs to have enough money to live on. The sponsorship of her visa demanded her compliance and her silence. Virginia and three other Filipina domestic workers are suing the Pakistan Mission to the United Nations in Switzerland, claiming compensation for unpaid wages and other damages. Evidence and testimony gathered from 2021 supported the allegations of violations of Swiss labour law, threats, coercion, exploitation and human trafficking. The Swiss Mission, which oversees issuing visa permits to domestic workers in diplomatic households and monitors compliance with employee contracts, confirmed that the case was currently being investigated. “Switzerland does not tolerate any abuse of the working conditions of private household employees in the diplomatic context,” said Paola Ceresetti, spokesperson for the Swiss Mission. In an email, the Pakistani Mission in Geneva told Al Jazeera they do not comment on cases pending resolution, but said: “The Mission takes its obligations under the applicable international law and local regulations very seriously.” (https://www.aljazeera.com/features/2023/5/24/four-filipinas-sue-diplomat-employers-in-switzerland-for-slavery) The Swiss Mission has suspended issuing visas for domestic workers employed under the Pakistan Mission until the dispute is settled.

Newsline: Russia shuts Swedish consulate, expels diplomats in tit-for-tat move

Russia said on Thursday it would shut Sweden’s consulate in St Petersburg and its own mission in Sweden’s second-biggest city Gothenburg, and expelled five Swedish diplomats in a tit-for-tat move after Stockholm expelled five Russians last month. It said it had withdrawn its consent for the Swedish consulate in St Petersburg from September. Stockholm said last month it had expelled the diplomats over espionage concerns. The Russian Foreign Ministry called the expulsions an “openly hostile step”. Swedish Foreign Minister Tobias Billstrom said in a statement the news was “very regrettable”. “Russia has chosen to expel Swedish diplomats who acted within the framework of the Vienna Convention and conducted customary diplomatic activities in Russia. We also deeply regret the Russian announcement about the Consulate General in St Petersburg,” he said. (https://uk.investing.com/news/stock-market-news/russia-expels-five-swedish-diplomats-says-ties-at-unprecedented-low-3032030) Relations between the two countries have worsened since Sweden last year announced its intention to join NATO. The Russian statement said ties had “reached an unprecedented low”.

Newsline: Iran names ambassador to Saudi Arabia

Iran has named an ambassador to Saudi Arabia, state media reported, sealing a thaw in relations more than seven years after the regional rivals severed ties. The new envoy, Alireza Enayati, previously served as Iran’s ambassador to Kuwait, assistant to the foreign minister and director general of Gulf affairs at the foreign ministry, the English-language Iran Daily said. (https://news.yahoo.com/iran-names-ambassador-saudi-seven-093050679.html) There was no immediate confirmation of his appointment from the foreign ministry of the Islamic republic. The Middle East heavyweights, after years of discord, signed a surprise reconciliation agreement in China on March 10.