Philippines widens ban on workers in Kuwait

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Labour secretary Silvestre Bello on Monday announced a "total ban" on new employment in Kuwait, including Filipinos who had already obtained employment permits but had not yet left for the country.

"Although we are understandably saddened because of the impact on our industry sector, we agree with the decision of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte to suspend indefinitely the deployment of OFWs to Kuwait and to repatriate OFWs there who are in distress situations and want to return home to be with their families", the Philippine Association of Agencies for Kuwait (PHILAAK) said in a statement, adding that they are coordinating with the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA). More than 2.3 million Filipinos are documented as working overseas.

Last Friday, Duterte hit out at Kuwait as he brandished photos reportedly of a Filipina maid found in a freezer, saying she had been "roasted like a pig".

Aside from shouldering the cost of the airfare, the Philippine government shall also settle the immigration penalties of overstaying Filipinos.

More than 2,200 Filipinos are ready to take up President Rodrigo Duterte's offer to repatriate workers from Kuwait due to reports of abuse, the Philippine labor minister said Sunday.

The government said it had issued the ban because the Kuwaiti government failed to protect Filipinos from abuse.

Calls to the Kuwaiti Embassy in Manila went unanswered on Monday.

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According to data gathered by support groups for OFWs, at least 120 Filipino workers were reported to have died in Kuwait in 2017, many of them simply listed as "suicides".

He added a permanent deployment ban will also harm our friendly relations with the Gulf Countries of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Yemen.

He said that, if the ban to Kuwait continues, "there will be a dramatic drop in dollar remittances amounting to over $1.3 billion because of the over 270,000 documented workers now in Kuwait".

'We are outraged by this latest frightful crime against our overseas Filipino workers, ' he added.

Filipinos in China work mostly for multinational companies, including diplomats stationed in Beijing and other cities, including executive officers of large Chinese companies and ranking government officials. "PAL is more than ready to mount extra flights to Kuwait, as needed", Philippine Airlines said.

Migrante International, for its part, welcomed the latest attempt of the government to flex its diplomatic muscles to protect the rights of OFWs.

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