Amid widespread controversy over the treatment of Filipino workers in Kuwait, the body of a Filipina domestic worker has been found in a freezer in a Kuwaiti flat.
The body, which is suspected to have been left in the freezer for over one year, has been identified as that of Joanna Daniela Demafelis, who was born in 1988.
In response, the Philippines has enforced a total ban on the deployment of Filipino workers to Kuwait.
Demafelis' body was found in the apartment located in Hawally's Al-Shaab area. According to reports, authorities believe she died by strangulation or torture.
The body was discovered after the flat's owner acquired a court order to forcibly evict the tenants for not paying rent.
Assaf and Hassoun left Kuwait with their children in November 2016, but the apartment's owner only recently obtained permission to enter the flat. According to Assaf's relatives, who spoke to Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Rai, the suspects have fled to Syria.
"It's impossible. My nephew would never kill anyone," Assaf's paternal aunt, who raised him, told Al-Rai.
"Maybe his wife is behind the crime. She is edgy and he always feared her. He once let her kick his mother from their house in Kuwait," claimed his cousin, as translated by Al-Arabiya.
Philippines' president responds
The Philippine embassy in Kuwait has launched an investigation into the crime and is yet to verify the report.
In response to the case, the President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, has ordered his labor secretary to immediately fly "distressed" Filipinos working in Kuwait back to their home country.
"Those who want to be repatriated [should be brought back home]. With or without money, I will ask PAL (Philippine Airlines) and Cebu Pacific to provide transportation," CNN quoted him as saying.
Philippines enforces total ban on overseas Filipino workers in Kuwait
On Monday, the Philippine government officially enforced a "total ban" on the deployment of Filipino workers to Kuwait. According to Gulf News, the new policy applies to all overseas Filipino workers.
Duterte had warned of the ban earlier this year, when he asked nationals who work and live in Kuwait to leave the country, citing the rise in cases of alleged mistreatment against them.
"One more incident about a woman, a Filipina being raped there, I'm going to stop, I'm going to ban," he said at the time.
Kuwait's Deputy Foreign Minister, Khalid Al-Jarallah, had responded to Duterte's statements by asking for details on the alleged cases of abuse.
Al-Jarallah also stressed at the time that Kuwait implements a strict labor law which is in line with international legislation and guarantees the rights of every foreign worker living in the Gulf state.