Kuwait orders Philippines ambassador to leave over domestic workers row

by Reuters
Wednesday, 25 April 2018 15:11 GMT

ARCHIVE PHOTO: People walk during the opening of a new annex to Avenues Mall, the largest shopping mall in Kuwait November 5, 2012. Picture taken November 5. REUTERS/Stephanie Mcgehee

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Rights advocates have long complained that Gulf states do not properly regulate working conditions for low-income domestic workers

(Adds Duterte's spokesman declining to comment)

KUWAIT, April 25 (Reuters) - Kuwait on Wednesday ordered the Philippines ambassador to leave within a week and recalled its own envoy for consultations after embassy staff tried to "rescue" Filipino domestic workers amid reports of abuse.

The decision was the latest episode in a three-month crisis sparked by reports that abuse by employers in the wealthy Gulf Arab state had driven several Filipinos to suicide.

The Philippines had apologized on Tuesday for what Kuwait viewed as a "flagrant" violation of its sovereignty, with the Philippine foreign secretary saying the embassy was forced to "assist" Filipino workers who sought help as some situations were a matter of life and death.

Kuwait's foreign ministry said it had given the ambassador three days to provide the names of Filipino residents in Kuwait who had "kidnapped" domestic workers from their employers' homes, adding it had yet to receive a response from the embassy.

Kuwaiti security forces "will continue to chase down those who violated the security of the country" and put them on trial, the ministry added in a statement.

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte's spokesman, Harry Roque, declined to comment on the Kuwaiti decision.

Domestic helpers account for more than 65 percent of the more than 260,000 Filipinos in Kuwait, according to the Philippines' foreign secretary.

In February, Duterte called on Filipino workers in Kuwait to return home after the discovery of a domestic worker's body in a freezer in an abandoned home. He said then that a list of both reported and unreported cases of mistreatment of Filipino migrant workers would be prepared.

Foreign workers in many Gulf states are employed under a sponsorship system that gives employers the right to keep their passports and exercise full control over their stay.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have long complained that Gulf states do not properly regulate working conditions for low-income domestic workers and labourers.

They say excessively long hours and insufficient flexibility to change contracts or return home contravene international labour laws and deprive workers of their human rights.

(Reporting by Ahmed Hagagy, with additional reporting by Manuel Mogato in Manila Writing by Aziz El Yaakoubi Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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