Thu, Feb 15, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Kuwait seeks to calm Philippines over dead worker

AP, KUWAIT CITY

Kuwait’s foreign minister on Tuesday tried to calm anger in the Philippines after a Filipino worker was found dead in a freezer, hoping to defuse an ordered “total ban” on workers going to the small, oil-rich nation.

It was the latest case to draw the anger of populist Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who last month complained that cases of abuse reported by Filipino domestic workers “always” seem to be coming from Kuwait.

There have been prominent cases of abuse in the past, including one in December 2014 in which a Kuwaiti’s pet lions fatally mauled a Filipina domestic worker.

However, what pushed the Philippines over the edge appears to be the killing of a domestic worker whose body was left in a freezer in a Kuwait City apartment reportedly abandoned since November 2016.

On Monday, the Philippine Department of Labor and Employment issued an order calling for “a total ban on deployment of all overseas Filipino workers to Kuwait.”

It was unclear how widely the order is being enforced, as many Filipinos are still working across industries in Kuwait.

Speaking to journalists on Tuesday, Kuwaiti Minister of Foreign Affairs Sabah al-Khalid Al Sabah said “this escalation will not benefit the relationship between Kuwait and the Philippines.”

He also said Kuwait warmly welcomed Filipino workers.

“We have 170,000 Filipino nationals living a decent life here,” Al Sabah said. “They have one of the least number of problems out of all expatriate communities. Isolated incidents unfortunately happen. We share all of our findings and investigations with the Philippine authorities.”

His comments also came as a US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group announced the Philippines had joined it.

Philippine Ambassador to Kuwait Renato Villa on Tuesday told reporters that he welcomed Al Sabah’s comments.

Kuwait has declared an amnesty for Filipino workers who have overstayed their visas and are working to help about 500 workers stuck in the country after a company refused to pay their salaries, Villa said, adding that Kuwaiti police have offered details on the killings of Filipinos to his diplomats.

Villa offered a much greater number of Filipino workers in Kuwait — 250,000 — and said 65 percent were domestic workers.

“They are the most vulnerable, the domestic workers,” he said.

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