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Asia Minute: Domestic Help and Abuse Fuels Diplomatic Dispute between the Philippines and Kuwait

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A diplomatic dispute between the Philippines and Kuwait has escalated to another level this week. It’s a case that focuses on the treatment of foreign workers in the Persian Gulf nation. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

Kuwait has expelled the Philippine ambassador.

The government of the Philippines says it’s “deeply disturbed.”

It’s the latest turn in a long-running dispute over the treatment of Filipinos working in Kuwait. Two months ago, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte banned anyone from the Philippines from starting a new job in Kuwait. That followed the discovery of the body of a Filipina maid in a freezer, and widespread allegations of abuse and exploitation.

The Philippines government says more than a quarter of a million Filipinos work in Kuwait — many as household maids.

The two countries have been discussing Filipino workers and their rights, but events have been moving faster on the ground.

Two Filipinos associated with the embassy in Kuwait were arrested this week for allegedly helping domestic workers escape abusive employers.

Local media quoted the ambassador of the Philippines as saying his embassy helps maids under duress if Kuwaiti authorities don’t do anything after 24 hours of a report of abuse.

That’s apparently the quote that got him kicked out of the country.

Credit RajatKansal / Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons
Kuwait City at night

There is a time factor at work in this dispute. Ramadan starts next month.

Observant Muslims refrain from food and water during daylight hours — leaving tens of thousands of Kuwaiti households more dependent than usual on their non-Muslim domestic help…including those from the Philippines.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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