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Philippines investigates labor abuses in Kuwait after new killings

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The Philippine government said Saturday it would take steps to assess and prevent abuses including rape and mistreatment of Filipino workers in Kuwait after a housekeeper was killed and dumped in a desert in the oil-rich emirate .

Jullebee Ranara’s remains were flown home Friday evening from Kuwait, where the 35-year-old was reportedly shot and killed by her employer’s son and then dumped with burn marks, Migrant Workers Secretary Susan Ople said.

Philippine officials were trying to confirm reports that she had been raped and was pregnant when she was killed by the 17-year-old suspect, who was taken into custody by Kuwaiti police, she said. The Philippine government would do anything to ensure justice for the victim, she said.

“It is a very gruesome and senseless crime and therefore the perpetrator must be punished,” Ople said in an online news conference.

His killing is the latest tragedy to strike a foreign worker from the Philippines, where about one-tenth of its more than 110 million people left mainly due to unemployment and poverty and now work or live in more than 200 countries to provide for their families. at home. The huge income they send home has helped keep Manila’s economy afloat.

Ople said it will send a team of officials to Kuwait to find out what has caused an increase in cases of abuse of Filipino workers in the small emirate in recent years and what preventive measures could be taken. Sexual abuse and rape, human trafficking, labor contract violations and unlawful firings are among the common grievances of Filipinos, she said.

Approximately 268,000 Filipinos currently work in Kuwait, including many domestic workers. More than 400 Filipinos have sought refuge in recent weeks at an emergency center run by the Philippine embassy due to work issues, and nearly half have returned to Manila, Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Hans Cacdac said.

Kuwait’s ambassador in Manila, Musaed Saleh Althwaikh, expressed his condolences and assured Ople that Ranara’s “tragic disappearance” was an isolated case.

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“Kuwaiti society is shocked and saddened to hear of Ms. Ranara’s passing,” the ambassador said in the letter, copies of which were provided to reporters. “Our judicial system will not lose sight of delivering justice to Ms. Ranara.”

In 2018, then-President Rodrigo Duterte banned the deployment of workers to Kuwait after a Filipino housekeeper, Joanna Demafelis, was found dead and mutilated inside a freezer in an abandoned apartment. The ban was eventually lifted.

The killing led to the signing of a 2018 labor pact between the Philippines and Kuwait, which provided greater protection for Filipinos, including banning a practice by employers of taking passports and travel documents to prevent workers to flee when abuse occurs or disputes arise.

The abuses, however, persisted despite the deal, which Ople said was being scrutinized and strengthened to introduce greater protections for Filipino workers.

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