Duterte suspends Kuwaiti work 

The Philippines has suspended sending workers to Kuwait after President Rodrigo Duterte said abuse by employers had driven several domestic helpers to suicide.

Kuwait expressed surprise at the move and said it would work with Manila to address the issue.

This month, concerns were raised when the remains of a Filipina woman who allegedly killed herself in Kuwait were returned home. Her family said the corpse showed signs of abuse and that her organs were missing, Nikkei reported.

Philippine labour minister Silvestre Belo told the media that no more overseas Filipino workers (OFW) would fly to Kuwait “pending investigation of the causes of deaths of about six or seven of our OFWs”.

The ban does not affect workers already in Kuwait and no indication was given about how long it would last.

The Department of Labour and Employment named seven Filipino maids who had died in Kuwait, with most arriving in the West Asian state in 2016.

Manila estimates there are more than 250,000 Filipinos, mostly maids, in Kuwait, with many others in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Many of those working overseas send surplus wages home to the Philippines, with an estimated US$2 billion arriving every month.

These remittances are viewed as a core component of the country’s burgeoning economy.

Kuwait has been criticised over its “kafala” system for foreigners, which has been compared to bonded labour or slavery.

The kafala system prevents staff from moving to a new job before their contracts end without employer consent, resulting in a range of alleged abuses.

Foreign affairs minister Alan Cayetano said Duterte’s request for a total ban was being investigated.

He said bans were often ineffective as the number of Filipino workers in Iraq continued to increase despite a prohibition on working there.

Cayetano is due to meet Kuwait’s ambassador on Monday to discuss Duterte’s announcement.

“I’m expecting a good response fom the ambassador but of course we have to see the response translate into action, meaning protection of our OFWs,” he told the media.

Duterte, who is popular among Filipino expats, said on the nation had “lost four women” in Kuwait, referring to maids he said had been abused and committed suicide.

The outspoken 72-year-old said he was aware of many cases of sexual abuse against Filipino women and would raise it with Kuwait and “state the truth and just tell them that it’s not acceptable anymore”.

More than 2.3 million Filipinos are documented as working overseas, according to Reuters.


Kuwait. Picture credit: Flickr