Kuwait con­demns Duterte’s call to evac­u­ate Filipino work­ers

Business World - - THE NATION -

A TOP Kuwaiti of­fi­cial con­demned on Tues­day a call by Philip­pine Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo R. Duterte to evac­u­ate his coun­try’s work­ers from Kuwait, sug­gest­ing he could dam­age ties be­tween the two coun­tries.

Manila 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 Gulf coun­try.

The mea­sure came af­ter Mr. Duterte an­grily lashed out at Kuwait over re­ports of Filipino work­ers suf­fer­ing abuse and ex­ploita­tion. On Fri­day he bran­dished pho­tos pur­port­ing to show a Filipino maid found in a freezer, say­ing she had been “roasted like a pig.”

Mr. Duterte also al­leged Arab em­ploy­ers rou­tinely raped their Filip­ina work­ers, forced them to work 21 hours each day and fed them scraps. He asked Kuwait: “Is there some­thing wrong with your cul­ture? Is there some­thing wrong with your val­ues?”

Two planes full of work­ers ar­rived in Manila from Kuwait on Mon­day on flights pro­vided for free by com­mer­cial air­lines at the Pres­i­dent’s re­quest. On Sun­day, the Philip­pine La­bor sec­re­tary said more than 2,200 Filipinos were ready to take up Mr. Duterte’s of­fer.

The Philip­pine For­eign Af­fairs depart­ment said au­thor­i­ties were repa­tri­at­ing 10,000 over­stay­ing Filipinos from Kuwait, tak­ing ad­van­tage of an amnesty pro­gram ar­ranged with the Kuwaiti gov­ern­ment.

For his part, Kuwait’s Min­is­ter of For­eign Af­fairs Sheikh Sabah al-Khalid al- Sabah said: “We are sur­prised and we con­demn state­ments from the Philip­pine pres­i­dent, es­pe­cially as we are in con­tact with the Philip­pines on a high level to ex­plain the work­ers’ con­di­tions in Kuwait.”

He was speak­ing at a joint news con­fer­ence with US Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tillerson dur­ing a meet­ing in Kuwait of the global coali­tion against Is­lamic State.

“Es­ca­la­tion does not serve the ties be­tween Kuwait and the Philip­pines,” Sheikh Sabah said, adding that 170,000 Filipinos “live a de­cent life in Kuwait ... but sep­a­rate ac­ci­dents un­for­tu­nately hap­pen, and we are pro­vid­ing our Filipino coun­ter­parts with the re­sults of the in­ves­ti­ga­tions.”

Au­thor­i­ties say 252,000 Filipinos work in Kuwait, many as maids. They are among over two mil­lion em­ployed in the re­gion, whose re­mit­tances are a life­line to the Philip­pine econ­omy.

Hu­man Rights Watch and other groups have doc­u­mented wide­spread abuses, in­clud­ing non­pay­ment of wages, long work­ing hours with no rest days, phys­i­cal and sex­ual as­sault, and no clear chan­nels for re­dress.

COM­MU­NI­CA­TIONS AS­SIS­TANT Sec­re­tary Es­ther Mar­gaux Uson takes a selfie with Filipino work­ers who ar­rived from Kuwait at the Manila In­ter­na­tional Air­port on Feb. 13.

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