Kuwait is home to 252,000 Filipinos.
PHOTO BY ARCHIVE
DUBAI – Amid escalating diplomatic tensions, the Philippines on Thursday demanded an explanation from Kuwait after the Gulf country expelled the Filipino ambassador there.
Kuwait on Wednesday gave Philippine ambassador Renato Villa one week to leave the country after videos emerged of embassy staff helping one of its nationals flee from allegedly abusive employers.
Philippine embassy officials said that while they coordinate with local officials to rescue distressed Filipino Overseas Workers (OFWs), the operation was a neccesity. Kuwait called it a violation of its sovereignty but did not address the issue of alleged maltreatment of Filipino domestic workers in the country.
In a statement, the Philippine foreign ministry said the expulsion of the Filipino ambassador was “deeply disturbing” and it will ask for an explanation.
Tensions have escalated between both countries after Filipina housemaid Joanna Daniela Demafelis was found dead inside a freezer kept in an abandoned apartment in Kuwait in February, sparking outrage among Filipinos around the world.
The suspects – a Lebanese man and his Syrian wife – were arrested after an interpol search was launched. The couple has been given the death sentence.
Demafelis’ case also angered Duterte, who lamented what he said was a growing number of abuses against Filipino workers in Kuwait.
Duterte had said he was ready to take “drastic steps” to prevent further deaths of OFWs in Kuwait and other Arab nations, and in February imposed a total ban on the deployment of Filipino workers to Kuwait.
“The Filipino is no slave to anyone, anywhere and everywhere,” Duterte said in a press conference in Davao City. “Every unlawful physical injury inflicted on an OFW is an injury I personally bear as the head of this republic. Every abuse committed to an OFW is an affront against us as a sovereign nation,” he said.
It appeared that Kuwait and the Philippines were on the road to an accord, however, Thursday’s development came as a roadblock.
“President Rodrigo Duterte and everyone else was shocked at this development because the president’s meeting with the Kuwaiti ambassador went well,” said Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque.
Earlier this month, Duterte had announced that he will visit Kuwait to sign a labour deal.
The proposed deal would have set terms for proper food, work breaks, and custody of passports of the 252,000 Filipinos in Kuwait, Roque said, adding that the timing of the visit was now in doubt. GAD/Expat Media
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