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Philippines expands ban for workers in Kuwait

President Rodrigo Duterte

On Monday, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) signed an administrative order enforcing total deployment ban of Filipino workers in the Gulf state.

Meanwhile, Kuwait's interior ministry denied on Monday social media reports that security personnel escorted Filipino domestic workers from citizens' houses against their will.

Dado said Kuwait has a draft of the bilateral labor agreement but has not signed it yet, as he added that a positive development from recent events is that Kuwait would be made to negotiate from the strong position that President Rodrigo R. Duterte has taken on the issue. Demafelis' family members have sought the help of the Philippine government in the quest for justice for the victim.

The ban was sparked by Duterte's anger over the treatment of Joanna Demafelis, a domestic worker whose body was found last week inside a freezer in an apartment in Kuwait that had been abandoned by her Lebanese employer in 2016. "A family becomes dysfunctional once a mother or father works overseas", said Duterte about sacrifices of Filipinos.

President Duterte has ordered a total ban on the deployment of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to Kuwait, saying the Philippine government is determined to hold the Gulf state responsible for the Filipino workers abused by their Kuwaiti employers.

In a statement, "In addition to the special flights, PAL has been repatriating OFWs using its four weekly Kuwait-Manila regular flights over the past few months".

The ones now being repatriated are those who availed themselves of the amnesty program for overstaying Filipino nationals that the Kuwaiti government approved last month.

The DOLE official said they still have to thresh out other details, specifically on the workers that would be covered by the order.

"Our efforts to protect our kababayans will not end with the imposition of deployment bans or the repatriation of our workers in countries where they are prone to maltreatment", he said. "We will also go after illegal recruiters, human traffickers and other modern-day slave traders who continue to victimise our people".

Around 25,000 Filipino workers were stranded in the country after the government issued a ban on the deployment of overseas Filipino workers (OFW) to Kuwait.

Filipino workers suffer from racial discrimination worldwide.

More than 250,000 Filipinos work in Kuwait, the Philippine foreign ministry estimates. He said the Philippine government will cover the airfare of repatriates as well as their immigration penalties for overstaying in Kuwait.

He added those who opt for repatriation from Kuwait will be given financial and alternative livelihood assistance.

"We have 170,000 Filipino nationals living a decent life here", the minister said.

Based on official government records, about 500,000 Filipinos are in Kuwait, and there are more than 3.5 million Filipinos scattered in the Middle East, officials said.