Kuwait assures safety of OFWs

The government of Kuwait on Monday, April 23, has assured the safety of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the Gulf state.

According to the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Kuwait made the assurance on during a meeting between Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Kuwaiti Ambassador Saleh Ahmad Althwaikh in Davao City.

“During the meeting, Ambassador Saleh reiterated to us the commitment of the Kuwaiti Government to protect and ensure the welfare of our more than 250,000 kababayans working there,” the DFA said in a statement released Tuesday, April 24.

The Philippines, for its part, gave “renewed assurances of our respect for the sovereignty of the State of Kuwait and the dignity of the Kuwaiti people.”

Both parties also “agreed to continue to work together to address matters of mutual concern and will update the public of developments.”

The meeting was held days after Philippine Ambassador Renato Villa was summoned by the Kuwaiti government.

State-run Kuwaiti News Agency reported that Villa was summoned due to the “inflammatory comments” he made to a local newspaper, and to the “inappropriate behavior” of the Philippine Embassy staff.

Villa was quoted in the reports as saying that the Philippine Embassy was moving in to help the abused Filipinos if Kuwaiti authorities fail to respond within 24 hours; and that the Philippines does not need the help of the Kuwaiti government in rescuing Filipinos.

The “inappropriate behavior,” meanwhile, referred to the rescue of distressed Filipino workers in the foreign country without reaching to the Kuwaiti authorities.

Citing the Kuwait Ministry of Interior, the state media reported two Philippine Embassy staff  members were arrested last Sunday, April 22, for “enticing” Filipino house helpers in Kuwait to escape their employers.

The Kuwait Interior Minister said the two arrested Filipinos “confessed to the crime, in addition to other similar offenses that had been committed in various regions of the country.” It was unclear, however, what law the two were accused of violating.

“The Filipino envoy’s remarks, along with the ‘inappropriate behavior’ of Manila’s diplomatic staff in Kuwait have been deemed a threat to Kuwait’s sovereignty, the source noted,” the news report said.

Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Cayetano on Monday maintained that the efforts to rescue distressed household workers in Kuwait were done in coordination with the Ministry of Interior.

Earlier this year, the Philippine government has enforced a complete ban on the deployment of Filipino workers to Kuwait over reported abuses. The order came following the death of Filipina worker Joanna Demafelis in Kuwait, whose body was found inside a freezer a year after she had been reported missing. 

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