Deal signing ceremony Image Credit: Kuwait Foreign Ministry

Manama: Kuwait and the Philippines signed a memorandum of understanding that includes the activation of a 24/7 hotline for distressed Filipinos in need of assistance and the creation of a special police unit to respond to complaints.

The deal, called the "Agreement on the Employment of Domestic Workers between the Philippines and Kuwait", was signed in Kuwait where Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Shaikh Sabah Khalid Al Hamad Al Sabah met Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano.

Labour Secretary Silvestre Bello III, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, and Special Envoy to Kuwait Abdullah Mamao were also part of the Philippine delegation.

Copy of the agreement - CBS

Manila had earlier set the agreement with Kuwait as a condition for the termination of its deployment ban to the Gulf state, a move triggered by claims to put an end to abuses of Filipinas.

Under the deal that covers all household service workers and skilled workers deployed in the Arabian Gulf state, employers cannot keep the passports and other travel documents of Filipino workers. The workers must be allowed to use their phones

The transfer of workers to another employer should be with the consent of the Filipino workers or with the approval of the Philippine Overseas Labour Office, media in Manila reported on Friday.

The agreement also covers the repatriation of OFWs, believed to be around 800, in shelters in Kuwait.

The deal was signed as relations between the two countries plummeted dramatically in recent weeks after staff from the Philippine embassy in Kuwait carried out operations held without the knowledge of local authorities to help domestic workers flee the homes of their employers.

In the operations, they used diplomatic vehicles to transport the workers to the airport. Videos of the clandestine operations were posted online by Philippine officials.

Infuriated, Kuwait said the operations were a breach of its laws and sovereignty and a violation of diplomatic norms, and officials arrested members of the Philippines diplomatic staff and seized two vehicles.

The Philippines later apologised in an attempt at damage control but Kuwait declared Ambassador Renato Villa persona non grata and expelled him. It also detained diplomats and drivers working for the Philippine embassy.

The drivers were reportedly released earlier this week.