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Kuwait expels Philippine envoy amid row over maid ‘rescue’ operation

Kuwait expels Philippine envoy amid row over maid ‘rescue’ operation

Posted April. 27, 2018 07:47,   

Updated April. 27, 2018 07:47


The government of Kuwait has decided to expel the Philippine envoy amid a diplomatic row over the Philippine embassy’s “rescue” operation for Filipino domestic workers from their allegedly abusive employers in the Arab country. The Philippine embassy helped 26 Filipino maids flee from allegedly abusive employers for two weeks from April 7. The so-called "Rescue in the Desert" operation was spread through social networking sites around the world. The Kuwait government strongly protested the operation, calling it a violation of its sovereignty.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, the Kuwaiti foreign ministry declared Philippine Ambassador to Kuwait Renato Pedro Villa non-grata and ordered him to leave the country within one week. The Middle Eastern country also decided to recall its envoy to the Philippines.

Earlier on Friday, the Kuwaiti government also arrested two employees of the Philippine embassy who participated in the operation, after lodging a diplomatic complaint to the Philippine envoy. Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano apologized on Tuesday, but Kuwait continued its hardline action against Manila, expelling the envoy.

The diplomatic row between the two countries was sparked by the murder of a Philippine maid named Joanna Demafelis, who disappeared in Kuwait in 2016. Her body was found in her employer's freezer in Kuwait in February this year. It was confirmed that she was strangled to death. Signs of torture, including burns and bruises, were also found on her body. Her last employers -- a Lebanese man and his Syrian wife – were arrested and sentenced to death for Demafelis' killing in early April.

Demafelis' murder ignited the public rage from the government and people of the Philippines. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte ordered a ban on the further deployment of Filipino workers to Kuwait and sent charter flights to Kuwait to fly out over 10,000 of its domestic maids living in the Gulf country. According to Manilla, more than 260,000 Filipino nationals are working in Kuwait.

Min-Woo Park minwoo@donga.com