Manila on Monday announced a “total ban” on new employment in Kuwait, including Filipinos who had already obtained employment permits but had not yet left for the Gulf country.
The measure came after President Rodrigo Duterte angrily lashed out at Kuwait over reports of Filipino workers suffering abuse and exploitation.
“This escalation will not serve the relationship between Kuwait and the Philippines,” Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Sabah told reporters in Kuwait City.
“We condemn the statements of the Philippine president, especially since we are in contact with the Philippines at the highest level to fully explain the state of the Filipino workforce in Kuwait,” he said.
Authorities say 252,000 Filipinos work in Kuwait, many as maids. They are among over two million employed in the region, whose remittances are a lifeline to the Philippine economy.
Domestic workers in Kuwait are not covered by ordinary labor legislation.
Human Rights Watch and other rights groups have documented widespread abuses and no clear channels for redress.
The Philippine foreign affairs department said Monday authorities were repatriating 10,000 overstaying Filipinos from Kuwait, taking advantage of an amnesty program arranged with the Kuwaiti government.
Officials added they were eyeing China and Russia as “alternative markets” for overseas workers.