Philippines halts sending workers to Kuwait over deaths, abuse

Duterte bans Filipinos from working in Kuwait

Bello said if reports are true that the cause of death was maltreatment, then the government will not hesitate to impose a deployment ban in Kuwait.

With this, Bello ordered the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) to stop the processing of overseas employment certificates of Kuwait-bound workers.

Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Al-Jarallah on Friday regretted remarks made by the Filipino president regarding the Philippine community in Kuwait.

It was not immediately clear how long the ban, which does not affect workers already in Kuwait, would last. But a day earlier Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte said his country had "lost four women" in Kuwait, referring to domestic helpers who he said had committed suicide after suffering abuse.

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Mr Duterte, who is hugely popular among the Filipino diaspora, said he was aware of many cases of sexual abuse against Filipino women and wanted to raise it with Kuwait and "state the truth and just tell them that it's not acceptable anymore". "Either we impose a total ban or you can have the correction", he said.

The Filipino population in Kuwait has exceeded 170,000, hence the four cases mentioned in the president's statement "cannot be used as a criterion to assess the overall status of the Philippine labourers in the country", he said. "I respect their leaders, but they have to do something about this", he added.

Kuwait has faced criticism in the past over its "kafala" system for foreign workers which has been likened to a form of bonded labour or even slavery.

Many of those working overseas send their salaries home to the Philippines, with an estimated $2bn (£1.4bn) making it back every month. Other groups have far higher estimates.

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