Kuwait on Wednesday expelled the Philippines ambassador and recalled its own from Manila over a growing diplomatic dispute regarding the abuse of Filipina housemaids and workers in the country.
The highly unusual move came as a surprise in the typically sedate and oil-rich Gulf Arab nation, whose homes rely on Filipina nannies and maids. The two nations had been negotiating an end to the Philippines’ ban on workers from heading there following the shocking discovery in February of a Filipina stuffed into a freezer in Kuwait City for over a year.
But the arrest of two Filipinos earlier this week over allegedly convincing maids to flee their employers’ homes and Philippines Ambassador Renato Villa’s comments reported in local media over the effort appears to have been too much for Kuwait to accept.
“Expelling the ambassador of the Philippines is a correct measure,” conservative lawmaker Shuaib al-Muwaizri wrote on Twitter. “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs should not accept any offers made by the Philippines president or his foreign affairs secretary.”
The Philippines had no immediate comment on the decision.
In a statement, Kuwait’s Foreign Ministry alleged the Philippines diplomatic mission in Kuwait City “smuggled Filipino domestic workers in flagrant defiance of the laws of the state of Kuwait.”
The ministry also said it had declared Villa persona non grata and had ordered him to leave Kuwait within a week.
Villa was quoted in local media as saying his embassy moves in to help abused maids if Kuwaiti authorities fail to respond within 24 hours.
Villa offered a public apology Tuesday, as did the Philippines foreign minister, over the comments. Two Filipinos also were arrested this weekend for allegedly encouraging maids to flee their employers’ homes, Kuwaiti police said.
The Philippines banned workers entirely from Kuwait after the discovery of Joanna Demafelis’ body in a freezer in February. In late March, Lebanese officials said 40-year-old Lebanese national Nader Essam Assaf confessed to killing the woman along with his Syrian wife, who remains at large. Authorities say Assaf faces a possible death sentence.
More than 260,000 Filipinos work in Kuwait, many of them as housemaids. Kuwait and the Philippines have since been negotiating for new rules governing Filipino workers there.
Read full article by Hussain Al-Qatari from Associated Press on Bloomberg, April 25, 2018