Filipino expats at the Consulate in Dubai on Saturday to cast their vote on the first day of overseas voting. Image Credit: Zarina Fernandes/Gulf News

The Philippine government has officially put a stop to the deployment of Filipino workers to Kuwait on Monday.

The move is in response to a series of incidents that led to the deaths and injuries of a number of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the Gulf state.

The head of the country’s Department of Labour and Employment (Dole), Secretary Silvestre Bello III, issued an order to enforce the “total ban” on Filipinos immediately.

The new policy applies to all OFWs, including those who have just been hired, are currently looking for work in Kuwait or suffering in poor working conditions.

Only recently, authorities discovered the body of a domestic helper, believed to be from the Phlippines, stuffed inside a freezer in an abandoned apartment in Kuwait.

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Kuwait is home to more than 250,000 Filipino expatriates, the third-largest in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region after the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

“In pursuit of national interest, and with the advent of the series of reports involving abuse and death of Overseas Filipino Workers in Kuwait, a total ban on deployment of all Overseas Filipino workers to Kuwait pursuant to the directive of the President of the Philippines is hereby enforced,” Administrative Order No. 54, signed by Bello III, reads. “This order takes effect immediately.”

However, Bello was quoted in media reports as saying that not all OFWs in Kuwait will be mandated to pack up and leave. The government will also have to review whether or not the ban should include Filipino expats who are currently on vacation, or those under the Balik Manggagawa program.

"Only those who want to go home and those who really have to [including Filipinos who are out of jobs] should leave," Bello said. Expats who are being treated well and have stable jobs can choose to stay. 

Duterte has already been in talks with some airlines to assist those who will be returning home, including distressed individuals, according to the government’s Philippine News Agency.

Amid reports of “inhuman treatment” of Filipino expats, Duterte had earlier called on OFWs based in Kuwait to leave the country.

“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,” Duterte said last month.

“One more incident about a woman, a Filipina being raped there, I’m going to stop, I’m going to ban.”