Kuwait expels Philippines ambassador over maid rescue controversy

The Gulf country previously accused embassy staff of violating its sovereignity



Kuwait has asked the Philippines ambassador to leave its territory within a week following a diplomatic row involving the ‘rescue’ of Filipino maids by embassy staff.

State news agency KUNA reported the move on Wednesday, saying Renato Villa had been given a week to leave Kuwait.

The country said it had also recalled its ambassador to the Philippines for consultation.

Villa had been summoned by Kuwait’s government twice over the weekend following comments appearing to corroborate social media footage showing Philippine Embassy vehicles waiting outside of the homes of employers to ‘rescue’ domestic workers from abuse.

Read: Philippine Embassy’s maid rescue operations spark diplomatic row in Kuwait

Kuwait’s Foreign Ministry said the operations were conducted without its permission and breached the country’s sovereignty. At least three embassy staff accused of being members of the ‘rescue’ teams have been arrested by the Interior Ministry in recent days.

Kuwait has asked the ambassador to provide the names of those who “kidnapped” domestic workers within three days but said it had yet to receive a response from the embassy.

Security forces “will continue to chase down those who violated the security of the country” and put them on trial, according to KUNA.

Philippine foreign secretary Alan Peter Cayetano apologised for the actions of diplomatic workers on Tuesday but said the embassy was forced to “assist” Filipino workers whose lives were sometimes in danger.

“We respect Kuwaiti sovereignty and laws, but the welfare of Filipino workers is also very important,” he said, adding that domestic workers account for more than 65 per cent of the more than 260,000 Filipinos in Kuwait.

Cayetano indicated Kuwait had accepted the Philippines’ explanation that workers left voluntarily with embassy staff after being persuaded to leave their employers.

Read: Philippines apologises to Kuwait for maid “rescue” operations

Tensions between the two countries had appeared to cool in recent weeks after rising when the Philippines cemented a ban on its workers being deployed to Kuwait in February over abuse concerns.

This followed several cases of workers being abused by their employers and committing suicide and the grim discovery of a maid found dead in a freezer more than a year after her employers fled the country.

Read: Kuwait court sentences couple to death for Filipina freezer murder

The two sides were in the process of formulating a new labour deal offering greater protections to Filipino domestic staff. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte was expected to travel to Kuwait to sign the deal in the coming weeks.

Read: Kuwait reaches deal with Philippines on worker rights

Kuwait’s deputy foreign minister Khalid Al-Jarallah indicated on Sunday that the actions of the embassy staff had jeopardised the deal.