Philippines lifts Kuwait domestic worker ban after row

Officials had previously indicated it would take longer to lift the ban



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The Philippines has unexpectedly lifted a ban on its nationals being deployed to Kuwait as domestic workers.

The move comes after the country allowed skilled and semi-skilled workers to seek employment in Kuwait earlier this week following a bilateral agreement signed on Friday that grants new protections to Filipino staff.

Read: Kuwait signs labour deal with the Philippines after abuse concerns

The two sides began working on the deal in March after a series of abuse cases, including that of a maid who was murdered and dumped in a freezer, prompted Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to invoke the ban the previous month.

Read: Philippines enacts ‘total ban’ on citizens working in Kuwait

However, the deal had until last week seemed in jeopardy after Kuwait accused the Philippine Embassy in the country of breaching its sovereignty by conducting illegal worker rescue operations.

The Gulf country expelled the Philippine ambassador prompting Duterte to say he would make the work ban permanent on April 29.

Read: Philippines’ Duterte says Kuwait work ban permanent after row

Philippine presidential spokesperson Harry Roque had indicated to reporters earlier this week that the ban on domestic workers would be lifted “eventually”, while Department of Labour and Employment secretary Silvestre Bello said last week the country wanted to see the “immediate affect of the agreement” before lifting the ban on domestic staff.

However, on Wednesday night Roque said Duterte had instructed Bello to “totally lift the ban on the deployment of Filipino workers to Kuwait”.

Kuwait Times reported there were mixed reactions in Kuwait to the move.

“Wow, thank God! I was expecting the ban to be lifted in the first week of Ramadan, but he lifted it earlier. So I am very happy about it,” Faraj Ashkhanani Agency owner Laila Venturin told the publication.

However, an ardent supporter of Duterte who spoke on condition of anonymity expressed disappointment that the president had “given in so easily to the Kuwait government”.

“I have my cousin here in Kuwait who is working as a housemaid. Until now, she can’t even hold her salary. It is sent directly to her family in the Philippines. She always complains of overwork and no day off,” the person was quoted as saying.

There are more than 150,000 Filipino domestic workers in Kuwait and a total Philippine workforce in the country exceeding 250,000.