Manila officials visiting Kuwait amid worker row

Manila officials visiting Kuwait amid worker row”

President Rodrigo Duterte held up pictures showing the battered body of a Filipino maid found in a Kuwait apartment freezer on February 9 and promised free flights home for abused workers in the country.

Duterte's government banned workers from going to Kuwait after the Filipina's body was found February 6 in a Kuwait City apartment that had reportedly been abandoned for more than a year.

Labour officials are due to conduct negotiations with Kuwait next week with the intention of finalising an agreement to protect the rights of Filipino workers in the country.

The killing was the final straw for Duterte, who asked commercial airlines to help the voluntary repatriation of workers from Kuwait.

In all, there are more than two million Filipinos working in the region, whose remittances are a lifeline to the Philippine economy.

Lagunzad said Duterte had ordered the team to ensure that the passports of Filipino workers are deposited with the Philippine embassy.

"We are going to Kuwait tomorrow, Saudi Arabia and then on to Qatar to ensure that our overseas Filipino workers have sufficient protection", said Labour Undersecretary Ciriaco Lagunzad, who will helm the delegation.

Manila has said some Filipino workers have been raped, fed scraps and forced to work 21 hour days by their employers in Kuwait.

Senator Win Gatchalian earlier said he is considering proposing the expansion of the total deployment ban to other countries that are partially-compliant with global and local labor laws.

"Kuwait should confront the outcry over deaths, beatings and rapes of domestic workers by taking immediate steps to reform the kafala system, which traps workers with abusive employers", HRW's Middle East women's rights researcher Rothna Begum said in a statement late yesterday.

Overseas Filipino workers say their goodbyes to their loved ones before leaving for another country to work.

Duterte also wants Filipinos to have access to cellphones so they can call for help in case of abuse, Lagunzad said.

"Hopefully we can finalise the memorandum of agreement and by first or second week of March, we will have the signing by the Kuwaiti and Philippine governments", said Mr Claro Arellano, another Labour Undersecretary.

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