Sunday, 29 April 2018

KUWAIT: Philippines Ambassador Expelled From Kuwait Over Mistreatment Of Domestic Workers.

The Philippines has demanded an explanation for Kuwait's decision to expel its ambassador amid a dispute over the treatment of domestic workers.

The two nations have been attempting to resolve the dispute since February, when the body of a murdered Filipina maid was discovered in Kuwait.

But last week videos emerged showing embassy staff rescuing Filipinos allegedly abused by their employers.

Kuwait condemned the violation of its laws and told the ambassador to leave.

Four Filipinos hired by the embassy were also arrested by Kuwaiti police and arrest warrants issued against three diplomatic personnel, according to the Philippines.

Last Saturday, the Philippine foreign ministry published two video clips said to show teams from the embassy in Kuwait carrying out rescues of Filipino domestic workers.

In one, a woman is seen running from a block of flats and being helped into a waiting car by a man.

On Wednesday, the Kuwaiti foreign ministry announced it had declared Philippine ambassador Renato Pedro Villa persona non grata and asked him to leave the country within a week.

A statement accused Philippine embassy staff and others of smuggling Filipino maids in flagrant violation of Kuwait's laws and international diplomatic rules.

It also vowed to chase down those responsible and put them on trial.

The Philippines apologised but stressed that the embassy had been responding to the calls for assistance by Filipino nationals in distress.

On Thursday, the Philippine foreign ministry said it had served a diplomatic note to the Kuwaiti embassy in Manila conveying its strong surprise and great displeasure at the expulsion of Mr Villa and the detention of the four Filipinos hired by the embassy.

The ministry summoned Kuwaiti Ambassador Saleh Ahmad Althwaikh to protest but was informed by the embassy that he had been recalled for consultations.

The ministry said Mr Althwaikh had assured Foreign Minister Alan Peter Cayetano on Tuesday that Mr Villa was welcome to stay in Kuwait until the end of his tour of duty and that the arrested embassy employees would be released from custody.

According to the ministry, the ambassador had also promised to:

Facilitate the repatriation of more than 800 Filipinos staying in shelters in Kuwait run by the Philippine embassy.

Treat humanely any Filipinos detained after the expiry on Sunday of an amnesty for overstaying visas.

Ensure justice for pending and future cases filed by Filipinos who were victims of serious abuse.

In February, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered Filipinos working in Kuwait to return home after the body of Filipina maid Joanna Demafelis was found inside a freezer in an abandoned apartment, more than a year after she was reported missing.

Her employers, Lebanese national Nader Essam Assaf and his Syrian wife Mona, have been sentenced to death in absentia for killing her.

Mr Assaf is being detained in Lebanon while Ms Assaf is in custody in Syria, where the couple were arrested.

The Philippines on Monday expanded a ban on its citizens working in Kuwait after President Rodrigo Duterte angrily lashed out at the Gulf state over reports of Filipino workers suffering abuse and exploitation.

Authorities say 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.

But Labour Secretary Silvestre Bello Monday announced a total ban on new employment in the country, including Filipinos who had already obtained employment permits but had not yet left for Kuwait.

Authorities have not ruled out revoking the permits of Filipinos currently working in Kuwait or of previous hires returning on new contracts.

With the advent of the series of reports involving abuses and deaths of overseas Filipino workers in Kuwait, a total ban on deployment of all overseas workers ... is hereby enforced,” Bello said, reading an order.

This order takes effect immediately.

The move would affect thousands of workers, labour spokeswoman Abegail de Vega said.

The fresh move came after Duterte last month barred Filipinos from seeking work in Kuwait, although the ban exempted those who had already secured permission.

Last Friday Duterte hit out at Kuwait as he brandished photos reportedly of a Filipina maid found in a freezer, saying she had been roasted like a pig.

Kuwait’s embassy in Manila declined to comment.

The Philippine foreign affairs department said Monday authorities were repatriating 10,000 overstaying Filipinos from Kuwait, taking advantage of an amnesty programme arranged with the Kuwaiti government.

Officials added they were eyeing China and Russia as alternative markets for overseas workers.

Tourism Observer

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