Filipina workers returning home from Kuwait arrive at Manila International Airport. Image Credit: AFP

Cairo: The Philippines announced Wednesday a total ban on the deployment of its workers to Kuwait after recent death of a Filipina domestic helper Jeanelyn Villavende.

Who will the ban cover?

The total deployment ban would cover all newly hired workers – domestic workers, skilled workers, and professionals.

A partial deployment ban had been in place since January 3, a move that covered first time household service workers with overseas employment certificates issued after 5 pm on January 3.

Why is there a ban?

The ban comes after an NBI autopsy revealed that Villavende, 26, was raped before her employers beat her to death in Kuwait.

A Kuwaiti report contradicts this claim.

The autopsy also showed that she had suffered from past physical abuse before her death in December.

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The earlier autopsy report of the Kuwaiti government of Kuwait did not mention rape nor indications of past abuse, but Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra noted that both the Philippine and Kuwaiti reports pointed to the same cause of death, which was “trauma due to the infliction of injuries to the body.”

How has Kuwait reacted?

“The decision comes as a major shock and will cause heavy losses to offices of domestic helper recruitment that they will not be able to withstand,” Khaled Al Dakhnan, the head of the Domestic Workers Offices’ Union, said.

“We do not have alternative plans. We need an immediate government move to resolve the issue,” he told Kuwaiti newspaper Al Rai.

The paper quoted unidentified Kuwaiti sources as expressing astonishment at the Philippine move.

“The ban comes although Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday announced his satisfaction with the swift measures taken by the Kuwaiti government in the murder case of the Filipina worker Jeanelyn Villavende,” one source said.

The sources added that Philippine labour officials are due to arrive in Kuwait soon for talks with representatives of the Philippine community in the country.

In a response to the Philippine step, Kuwait’s Finance Minister and acting Minister of State for Economic Affairs Mariam Al-Aqeel said Kuwait plans to recruit domestic workers from other countries including Nepal, Ethiopia, India and Indonesia.

She explained that the move aims at preventing shortages in the required numbers of domestic helpers. “The size of domestic workers in Kuwait are nearly 730,000. Compared to the overall number, the complaints filed by these workers are very few. Most of them are solved amicably,” the minister said.

In 2018, ties between Kuwait and the Philippines soured after the body of a Philippine housemaid was found inside her employers’ freezer. The row was shortly resolved after the two countries reached an agreement regulating employment of domestic workers.