The President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, asked nationals who work and live in Kuwait to leave the country, citing the rise in cases of alleged mistreatment against them, Gulf News reported.
In a statement he made earlier this week, the president said:
"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."
"One more incident about a woman, a Filipina being raped there, I’m going to stop, I’m going to ban," he added.
While Duterte made no mention of the specific criminal incidents he was referring to, in recent months, up to seven cases of rape and abuse against Filipino workers were reported in the Gulf state, which hosts over 250,000 nationals of the country.
"Can I just ask you now to treat my countrymen as human beings with dignity?"
In his address, Duterte also sent a message to Kuwaiti officials:
“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,” he explained.
He added that he views Kuwait as an ally of the Philippines, but also needs its authorities to be vigilant in solving problems encountered by workers living there.
The statement comes after a suspension of deployment to Kuwait was announced
Duterte's latest statement comes just a few days after his country's Ministry of Labor suspended the deployment of Filipino workers to Kuwait.
The suspension was announced on January 19 and might later expand to several other countries in the Middle East.
In his statement on the recent decision, Labour Secretary, Silvestre Bello, said it was a measure taken in the wake of a large number of alleged abuse cases reported by Kuwait-based Filipino workers and their families.
At the time of the announcement, Bello also stressed that no Filipino worker would be allowed to travel to Kuwait until the pending investigations into the deaths of several workers who passed away in the country are done.
Kuwaiti officials respond
In his response to the ongoing tension between the two countries, Kuwait's Deputy Foreign Minister, Khalid Al-Jarallah, said his ministry asked for details on the abuse cases and deaths reported by Duterte.
He also explained that his country was shocked at the recent claims.
"We are surprised at the statements made by the President of the Philippines, especially given the fact that we met with Filipino officials and asked them to identify the cases he was referring to but they have yet to provide us with any details," he said.
Al-Jarallah stressed 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.
"Filipino workers based in our country live in safety and are governed by laws that protect their rights. They and all other foreign workers are welcome in Kuwait," the minister added, explaining that his ministry has not stopped issuing visas for Filipinos.
Both countries continue to work on ending the recent rift. Earlier this week, Kuwait's ambassador to the Philippines, Moased Saleh Al Thuwaykh, met with the country's Labor Minister and the two discussed the matter further.