Manama: Kuwait has protested to the Philippines following “serious offences” that included conducting operations to whisk domestic workers away from their employers’ homes in diplomatic vans.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it summoned on Friday the Philippines ambassador to Kuwait and handed him two protest notes.
A spokesperson for the ministry said the notes were “related to recent remarks by several Filipino officials which [amounted to] serious offences against the State of Kuwait and [led] to the actions some embassy employees in violation of the diplomatic norms governing relations between the two countries as per the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations,” Kuwait News Agency (Kuna) reported.
The spokesperson “expressed regret over such practices which could harm the friendship between the two countries”.
On Wednesday, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the Philippine embassy in Kuwait, together with an augmentation team from the home office, has been working overtime in the past two weeks to take custody of as many as 200 distraught Filipinos who have been awaiting rescue.
It added seven teams under the supervision of Executive Director Raul Dado of the Office of Migrant Workers Affairs have been carrying out the rescue operations with the assistance of Kuwaiti authorities.
However, although rescue operations required Kuwaiti police assistance, Dado said that, in some cases, rescue teams had to do it on their own, especially in cases of sexual and physical abuse.
On Thursday, the Philippine Star daily reported that rescue teams went as far as knocking on doors to find Filipino domestic helpers who have cried out for help.
“Executive Director Dado says his teams would proceed to the given address, knock and request the employer to present the Filipino worker,” the DFA said.
The DFA said that “26 Filipino workers have been rescued since April 7 and released a video that showed how two operations were carried out.
“If the household service worker has injuries, Kuwaiti police are immediately called in and the embassy takes custody of the Filipino,” the DFA said.
In Kuwait City, the Philippine ambassador Renato Pedro O. Villa reportedly said the intervention of the embassy was not arbitrary and that it was a necessity.
The rescue team waits for the domestic helper outside the employer’s home and then drives her either to the embassy or to hospital if needed, Kuwaiti daily Al Rai reported on Saturday.
The team intervenes if no action is taken 24 hours after informing the Ministry of Interior, he added.
Al Jarida daily reported the ambassador said the special rescue team has been operating for more than a month in Kuwait.
The team is made up of seven members and acts whenever there were urgent cases that could not wait for action from the foreign and interior ministries, the ambassador told Al Jarida.
Following the operations, the embassy asks the helpers’ sponsors to pay their dues, including the cost of the tickets home.
Relations between Kuwait and Philippines have been tense following an order by President Rodrigo Duterte in February to impose a deployment ban on Kuwait citing abuses suffered by some domestic helpers.
The ban was announced following the discovery of the body of Filipina worker Joanna Demafelis in a freezer inside the house of her employers, a Lebanese man and his Syrian wife.
Kuwait and the Philippines attempted to fix their relations through negotiations and in early April, a bilateral agreement to protect Filipino workers in Kuwait was finalised.
There were reports Duterte might travel to Kuwait before Ramadan to witness the signing of the memorandum of understanding.