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Kuwait expels Filipino envoy, recalls own ambassador

Move comes after discovery of Philippine embassy staff 'encouraging workers to flee employers' households', KUNA says.

Filipino workers

Kuwait has ordered the Philippine ambassador to leave the country within a week and recalled its own envoy to Manila for consultations, according to the official news agency KUNA.

The moves on Wednesday came days after videos emerged of Philippine embassy staff purportedly helping Filipino maids flee from allegedly abusive employers in Kuwait.

KUNA quoted the Kuwaiti foreign ministry as saying that the action against Ambassador Renato Villa was in retaliation for "undiplomatic acts by Philippine embassy staff, encouraging Filipino domestic workers" to escape employers' households.

The ministry said it had given the envoy three days to provide the names of Filipino residents in Kuwait who had "kidnapped" domestic workers from their employers' homes, adding it had yet to receive a response from the embassy.

It also said it had declared Villa "persona non-grata".

On Tuesday, the Philippines apologised for what Kuwait viewed as a "flagrant" violation of its sovereignty, with the Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano saying the embassy was forced to "assist" Filipino workers who sought help as some situations were a matter of life and death.

"We respect Kuwaiti sovereignty and laws, but the welfare of Filipino workers is also very important," Cayetano told reporters, adding that domestic helpers account for more than 65 percent of the more than 260,000 Filipinos in Kuwait.

"We're sending a note now to my counterpart, and we are apologising for certain incidents that Kuwait views as violation of their sovereignty," Cayetano said.

Helper's body in freezer

In Fenruary, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte ordered a ban on the further deployment of Filipino workers to Kuwait over reports of abuse following the discovery of a domestic worker's body in a freezer in an abandoned home.

Joanna Demafelis went missing in September 2016, and her body was found on February 6 in a freezer in an abandoned apartment in Kuwait City, where it had reportedly been kept for more than a year.

Her Lebanese and Syrian employers were given death sentences in absentia.


READ MORE: Kuwait court sentences couple to death in Filipina maid's murder


In Saturday's operation, the workers were taken to shelter houses ran by the embassy and would soon be repatriated, diplomats in Manila said, according to Reuters news agency.

"The workers voluntarily went with embassy staff who waited outside the homes of the domestic helpers' employers," said a diplomat. The employers did not hand over their passports.

Some workers were persuaded to leave their employers, the diplomat added.

The operation was captured on video and posted on social media.

"It was not a clandestine operation," said Elmer Cato, Philippine assistant secretary for public diplomacy, according to Reuters.

This diplomatic crisis between the two countries prompted Kuwaiti MPs to demand the expulsion of Manila's envoy.

"Expelling the ambassador of the Philippines is a correct measure that should have been taken when the Philippines president first started his threats," MP 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 called Kuwait's decision "deeply disturbing," saying it "reneged" on an earlier agreement to work together.


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