Published: Thu, February 22, 2018
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

Duterte visits Demafelis wake, slams Kuwait anew

Duterte visits Demafelis wake, slams Kuwait anew

The repatriation from Kuwait was the government's response to the alleged abuses committed by its citizens against Filipino workers, highlighted by the death of Joanna Demafelis, a domestic helper, whose body was found inside a freezer a year after she was reported missing.

Duterte said the government is conducting an assessment to "find out the places where we deploy Filipinos and our countrymen suffer brutal treatment and human degradation".

Duterte's government banned workers from going to Kuwait after the Filipina's body was found February 6 in a Kuwait City apartment that had reportedly been abandoned for more than a year. The ban applies only to new Kuwait-bound workers and the thousands already there, mostly maids, can continue working.

The Philippine government recently imposed a total ban on the deployment of Filipino workers to the Gulf state, home to about 252,000 Filipino workers.

Duterte talked with the family of Demafelis and then briefly viewed her remains, gently touching her coffin with his hand.

It is believed that Demafiles body had been stored in the freezer for more than a year now.

"Both Kuwait and the Philippines have an opportunity to work together to increase protections for domestic workers and fix the gaps that are leaving workers vulnerable to extreme abuse".

Philippine officials are under increasing pressure to do more to monitor the safety of the country's worldwide diaspora of mostly maids, construction workers and laborers.

But unlike his celebratory campaign visit in Iloilo in April 2016, Duterte's visit is blue, as he is set to pay his respects to the family of slain overseas Filipino worker (OFW) Joanna Demafiles of Barangay Ferraris, Sara town in northern Iloilo.

"Karma na "yan (karma will catch up with them)", Duterte said of the suspects in Demafelis" death during his conversation with her parents.

Duterte has criticized Kuwait over other Filipino killings and abuse there. "We made clear to the authorities in the Philippines that this issue needs to be rectified", Al-Jarallah said, citing "positive feedback" from Filipino officials.

The Philippines is one of the world's largest labor exporters.

Instances of employers holding onto travel documents are common in the six-state Gulf Cooperation Council despite the practice being illegal in most countries.

Many desperate Filipinos have also chosen to stay in countries where the Philippines has banned Filipinos in the past, such as in war-torn Iraq and Syria.

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