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The Philippines banned workers from permanently going to Kuwait



MANILA, Philippines – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said on Sunday that a ban on Filipino workers going to Kuwait since February has been in force over the abuse of Filipino domestic workers and workers in the Persian Gulf

Kuwait expelled the Philippine ambassador on Wednesday and recalled his own envoy from Manila over the dispute. The most unusual step came surprisingly in Kuwait, a typically portly and oil-rich nation that has doggedly persecuted Dutter's criticism as well as her dependency on Filipina nanny and girl.

"The ban remains permanent," said Duterte at a press conference in the southern city of Davao, after he arrived from Singapore where he attended a summit of Southeast Asian leaders. "There will be no recruiting, especially for domestic help." No more.

There was no immediate response from Kuwaiti officials.

The two nations negotiated an end to the ban imposed on Filipina in February after the shocking discovery of a Filipina-filled city in February for over a year

but the arrest of two Filipinos last week with the embassy allegedly convincing maids were bound to flee their employers, and Ambassador Renato Villa's remarks reported in the Kuwaiti media seem to have been too much for Kuwait

The Philippines described Kuwait's decision as "profound alarming "and stated that it" failed "an earlier cooperation agreement.

Duterte said on Sunday that Filipino workers already in Kuwait could stay on demand. He added that the government would try to help those who want to return to the Philippines.

"For the domestic workers whose employers they want to have, that's their choice, but choose the better option," said Duterte. "All I ask is that employers treat the Filipinos with the humanity they deserve."

There have been prominent cases of abuse of Filipino domestic workers in the past, including in 2014, when a Kuwaiti pet lion killed a Filipino maid.

Since taking office, populist Duterte Kuwait has repeatedly criticized the fact that he did not properly handle the abuse of the Filipinos.

"I do not want a fight with Kuwait, I respect their leaders, but they have to do something about it, because many Filipinas will commit suicide," he said in January.

The Philippines banished workers completely from Kuwait after discovering the body of Joanna Demafelis in a freezer in February. At the end of March, Lebanese officials announced that 40-year-old Lebanese Nader Essam Assaf had confessed to killing the woman along with his Syrian wife, who remains at large. According to the authorities Assaf is facing a possible death penalty.

More than 260,000 Filipinos work in Kuwait, many of them as housemaids. Kuwait and the Philippines have since been negotiating new rules for Filipino workers.

The Philippines is a major exporter of labor, especially in the Middle East. About a tenth of the population work abroad, and the revenue they send home has been supporting the Philippine economy for decades.

It is likely that both sides want to negotiate an end to the dispute, especially before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan begins in May. Kuwaitis rely heavily on Filipino maids and cooks during the period when they forego water and food during daylight hours.

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