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Duterte asks Filipinos to leave Kuwait
January 24, 2018, 4:59 pm
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Following repeated instances of ill-treatment, including physical abuse, rape and murder, the Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has asked the Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in Kuwait to pack up and return home.

Alleging “inhuman treatment” of Filipino migrants, many of whom have committed suicide, the President said: “I’m sorry. The Filipinos there, you can all go home. If you all get out of Kuwait, they will also be having a hell of a time adjusting there.”

President Duterte made the statement on learning about the alleged rape of yet another Filipina maid in Kuwait. “One more incident about a woman, a Filipina being raped there, I’m going to stop, I’m going to ban,” Duterte said. He did not give details about the OFW who was the latest victim of rape in Kuwait.

On 19 January, the Philippines Labor Department had suspended the deployment of OFWs to Kuwait because of the death of seven Filipinos there. At the time, the President had hinted that he would push for a total ban of OFWs to Kuwait. The ban was mulled even earlier because of alleged sexual abuses suffered by Filipina household workers in Kuwait.

In comments directed to government officials in Kuwait, Duterte said, “Can I just ask you now to treat my countrymen as human beings with dignity? I don’t want to fight with you. We need your help. You are helping us, but if it [the assistance] ends up with misery, rape, and my countrymen committing suicide [they might as well leave Kuwait]. We are poor, we may need your help, but we will not do it [work] at the expense of the dignity of the Filipino,” Duterte said.

He added: “Kuwait has always been an ally. But please do something [about] it,” stating that if he cannot solve the problems encountered by OFWs in Kuwait, “then there is no reason for me to stay in this position a minute longer”.

Other OFWs in Kuwait have complained of long working hours, maltreatment, and non-payment of salaries, said Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello.  “OFWs are most preferred overseen workers,” said Bello, demanding better treatment of OFWs, especially domestic helpers.” Sixty percent of all OFWs in Kuwait are domestic helpers.

Last week the Kuwait Foreign Ministry had summoned the Ambassador of the Philippines, H.E. Renato Pedro Villa, and expressed regret and bewilderment at the decision to ban the dispatch of laborers to Kuwait. Such a stance contradicts nature of the distinctive ties between the two countries and does not serve their common interests, Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Al-Jarallah had said on the occasion.

The Deputy Foreign Minister added that freedoms and rights enjoyed by the expatriate communities in the country had contributed to increasing the number of the Filipino workers in Kuwait to 276,000.

Briefing the Cabinet about the decision by the Philippines government to ban Filipino workers from traveling to Kuwait, over the mistreatment of OFWs in the country, Kuwait’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah said the “sudden” suspension of laborers’ dispatch to Kuwait, was counter to mutual interest. He said the Philippines president had mentioned individual cases, which did not apply to the majority, and those individual cases were subject to legal procedures. “The State of Kuwait,” said the top diplomat “has a clean human rights record by which the expatriates enjoyed full rights”.

Some 10 million OFWs are based worldwide. Their average remittances of $25 billion to $30 billion a year have been helping the Philippine economy. The Philippine government started sending Filipino workers abroad in the mid-1960s.

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