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The Philippines

Philippines’ Duterte lifts ban for Kuwait-bound workers

The news comes days after Kuwait and the Philippines reached a deal to regulate and protect Filipino workers who seek jobs in the wealthy Gulf state

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 17 May, 2018, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 17 May, 2018, 8:15pm

The Philippines has lifted its ban on migrant workers heading to jobs in Kuwait, ending a diplomatic row that was sparked when a murdered Filipina maid was found in her employer’s freezer.

“President Rodrigo Roa Duterte tonight instructed Secretary Silvestre Bello to totally lift the ban on deployment of Filipino workers to Kuwait,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said in a statement on Wednesday.

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The news comes days after Kuwait and the Philippines signed a deal to regulate and protect the hundreds of thousands of Filipino workers who seek higher-paid jobs in the wealthy Gulf state.

The spat, simmering for months, reached its lowest point last month when Kuwaiti authorities expelled Manila’s envoy over videos showing embassy staff helping Filipino workers flee allegedly abusive bosses in Kuwait.

Around 262,000 Filipinos work in Kuwait, nearly 60 per cent of them domestic workers, according to the Philippine foreign ministry.

They are among the millions of Philippine citizens that seek work abroad, attracted by salaries they cannot get in their relatively impoverished nation.

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The money they send back home accounts for about 10 per cent of the Philippine economy.

Duterte in February prohibited workers from heading to Kuwait when domestic helper Joanna Demafelis’s corpse was discovered in a freezer in her employer’s home.

He lashed out at Kuwait, alleging Arab employers routinely rape Filipina workers, force them to work 21 hours a day and feed them scraps.

Relations appeared to recover after a Kuwaiti court sentenced to death in absentia a Lebanese man and his Syrian wife for Demafelis’ killing.

After the verdict, Duterte announced plans to visit Kuwait to seal an agreement on workplace safety guarantees for the Filipinos working in the Gulf nation.

But after the rescue videos were released by the Philippine foreign ministry, relations plunged again.