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The Philippines

Kuwait gives Philippine ambassador one week to leave country amid maid dispute

The announcement came days after the ambassador admitted his embassy helped maids flee their Kuwaiti employers

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 April, 2018, 9:32pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 April, 2018, 9:46pm

Kuwait on Wednesday gave a one-week deadline for the Philippines ambassador to leave the small, oil-rich Gulf Arab nation over a growing diplomatic dispute regarding the abuse of Filipino housemaids and workers in the country.

Kuwait also recalled its own ambassador from Manila over the row, according to a bulletin on the state-run KUNA news agency.

The Philippines had no immediate comment on the decision.

The announcement came after Kuwait summoned the Philippine ambassador over comments he made that were reported in local press about the embassy’s effort to rescue domestic workers who are abused by their employers. Ambassador Renato Villa was quoted as saying his embassy moves in to help the abused if Kuwaiti authorities fail to respond within 24 hours.

Villa offered a public apology on Tuesday, as did the Philippine foreign minister, over the comments. Two Filipinos also were arrested at the weekend for allegedly encouraging maids to flee their employers’ homes, Kuwaiti police said.

The Philippines banned workers entirely from Kuwait after the discovery of Joanna Demafelis’ body in a freezer in February. In late March, Lebanese officials said 40-year-old Lebanese national Nader Essam Assaf confessed to killing the woman along with his Syrian wife, who is still at large. Authorities say Assaf faces a possible death sentence.

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

Philippine officials have demanded that housemaids be allowed to hold their passports and mobile phones, which is normal for skilled workers like teachers and office workers. But many Kuwaiti employers seize their phones and passports.