Philippines to lift Kuwait travel ban following workers' rights deal

Philippines to lift Kuwait travel ban following workers' rights deal
The Philippines has lifted its ban on its workers travelling to Kuwait, after a deal was reached between the two countries.
2 min read
The ban on Filipino workers in Kuwait has been reversed by Manila [Getty]

Kuwait and the Philippines signed a deal on Friday, following a huge diplomatic rift, that will see Manilla lift a ban on its nationals travelling to the Gulf state for work.

The agreement will regulate the rights of Filipina domestic workers, after a dispute between the two countries on the issue led to Manila adopting a travel ban for its nationals to the country.

"A short time ago we signed an agreement between the two countries on the employment of domestic workers," Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Khaled al-Sabah told a joint press conference with his Filipino counterpart Alan Peter Cayetano.

In February Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte imposed a partial ban on workers travelling to Kuwait.

The ban followed the shocking discovery of the corpse of Filipina maid Joanna Demafelis in a freezer.

Her murder brought global attention about the alleged mistreatment of domestic workers in Kuwait, and condemnation from leading human rights organisations.

The crisis deepened after Kuwaiti authorities in April expelled Manila's ambassador following the emergence of video footage showing a Philippine embassy staff member helping workers escape employers accused of mistreatment. 

Cayetano said a new ambassador to Kuwait would soon be appointed and that he would advise Duterte to "immediately" lift the ban.

"I think the crisis is over. We will move on with the bilateral relations and we will resume normal ties with Kuwait," said an official with Cayetano's delegation.

He added that the agreement "gives a number of rights to Philippine workers".

The agreement says that workers will be allowed to keep their passports and mobile phones - which are often confiscated by employers. 

It stipulates that contract renewals should be approved by the Philippine Overseas Labor Office, instead of being automatically renewed.

Employers must provide domestic workers with food, housing, clothing and health insurance, according to the document.

About 262,000 Filipinos work in Kuwait, 60 percent of them in domestic labour, according to Manila.

More than two million Filipinos are employed across the Gulf.