Manila: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte asked Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in Kuwait to pack up and leave, following alleged “inhuman treatment” of Filipino migrants, many of whom have committed suicide.
“I’m sorry. The Filipinos there, you can all go home. If you all get out of Kuwait, they will also be having a hell of a time adjusting there,” said Duterte, before leaving for India to attend the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean)-India Commemorative Summit. He was also scheduled to attend India’s Republic Day celebrations, along with all other Asean heads of governments.
“One more incident about a woman, a Filipina being raped there, I’m going to stop, I’m going to ban,” Duterte ranted. He did not give details about the OFW who was recently raped in Kuwait. There are more than 250,000 Filipinos working in Kuwait.
Addressing government officials in Kuwait, Duterte said, “Can I just ask you now to treat my countrymen as human beings with dignity? I don’t want to fight with you. We need your help. You are helping us, but if it [the assistance] ends up with misery, rape, and my countrymen committing suicide [they might as well leave Kuwait]. We are poor, we may need your help, but we will not do it [work] at the expense of the dignity of the Filipino,” Duterte said.
He added: “Kuwait has always been an ally. But please do something [about] it,” stating that if he cannot solve the problems encountered by OFWs in Kuwait, “then there is no reason for me to stay in this position a minute longer”.
On January 19, the Labour Department suspended the deployment of OFWs to Kuwait because of the death of seven Filipinos there.
The ban was mulled even earlier because of alleged sexual abuses suffered by Filipina household workers in Kuwait. Other OFWs there have complained of long working hours, maltreatment, and non-payment of salaries, said Labour Secretary Silvestre Bello.
“OFWs are most preferred overseen workers,” said Bello, demanding better treatment of OFWs, especially domestic helpers.
At the time, Duterte hinted he would also push for a total ban of OFWs to Kuwait.
Sixty per cent of all OFWs in Kuwait are domestic helpers.
Some 10 million OFWs are based worldwide. Their average remittances of $25 billion to $30 billion a year have been helping the Philippine economy. The Philippine government started sending Filipino workers abroad in the mid-60s.