Tension high between Philippines and Kuwait over abuses against Filipino workers

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  • Officials of the Philippine government are headed to Kuwait on February 22, to seek greater protection for migrant Filipino workers.

    The trip follows a diplomatic row between the two countries over the alleged mistreatment of Filipinos in the Gulf state.

    President Rodrigo Duterte earlier announced a departure ban for Filipinos planning to work in Kuwait.

    Kuwait’s ruling emir has reportedly invited Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte to his country to resolve tensions after a Filipina maid was found dead in a freezer.

    Kuwait’s state-run KUNA news agency reported that Kuwait’s Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled al-Jarallah announcing the proposed visit in March.

    It’s unclear if Duterte has accepted the invitation from Kuwait’s emir, the 88-year-old Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah.

    Some 250,000 Filipino workers are in Kuwait. Many work as domestic help.

    Duterte’s government banned workers from going to Kuwait after the Filipina’s body was found on February  6 in a Kuwait City apartment that had reportedly been abandoned for more than a year.

    Duterte has criticized Kuwait over other Filipino killings and abuse there.

    Philippine Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said one of his deputies would lead the delegation, which is also due to stop in Saudi Arabia and Qatar to urge reforms.

    Topping the list are demands that Filipino workers be allowed to keep their cellphones and passports, which can be confiscated by employers.

    Duterte ordered the ban following reports of the murder of a Filipina maid whose body was found stuffed in a freezer in Kuwait.

    Duterte’s ban sparked a diplomatic flap between the Philippines and the Gulf state.

    Duterte alleged that Arab employers routinely raped their Filipina workers, forced them to work 21 hours a day, and fed them scraps.

    Kuwait has invited Duterte for a visit but he has yet to respond.

    Authorities say some 252,000 Filipinos work in Kuwait, many as maids. They are among over two million employed in the region, whose remittances are a lifeline to the Philippine economy.

    Labor Undersecretary Ciriaco Lagunzad III will helm the delegation.

    “We are afraid that because of the decision of the President to have a deployment ban, our overseas Filipino workers in Kuwait might be affected,” he said.

    Lagunzad said Duterte had ordered the team to ensure that the passports of Filipino workers are deposited with the Philippine embassy.

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