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Philippines limits recruitment of workers to Kuwait after abuse and murder case

Authorities made the decision after the murder of Jullebee Ranara whose body was left charred in the Kuwaiti desert
Relatives of Jullebee Ranara, a domestic helper who was killed in Kuwait, grieve during her funeral at a cemetery in Las Pinas, Metro Manila on February 5, 2023 (AFP)
Relatives of a domestic helper who was killed in Kuwait, Jullebee Ranara, grieve during her funeral in Las Pinas, Metro Manila on 5 February 2023 (AFP)

The Philippines has halted the recruitment of first-time workers to Kuwait after reports of abuse and the murder of Filipina maids in the Gulf state have raised calls for a potential recruitment ban. 

Kuwait is home to approximately 268,000 Filipinas living and working in the Gulf state. 

Last month the murder of 35-year-old Jullebee Ranara prompted calls for a complete or partial ban on sending workers to Kuwait.

Her body was left abandoned and charred in the desert.

'We are preparing well in advance for these talks, bringing with us an accumulation of abuse done over the years'

Susan Ople, Philippines Migrant Workers

Manila has since suspended the accreditation of new recruitment agencies and is now stopping first-time workers from seeking employment in Kuwait. 

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“The application of first-time migrant workers specifically for household services in Kuwait shall be deferred until after significant reforms have been made resulting from upcoming bilateral talks with the said country,” the Department of Migrant Workers in Manila said in a statement.

The Philippines Migrant Workers Secretary Susan Ople said her department is not imposing a complete ban on sending workers to Kuwait.

Ople said in a statement on Wednesday that the Philippines planned to hold talks with Kuwait over the labour rights of Filipinos. 

“We have also been informed through diplomatic channels of the willingness of the Kuwait government to engage in bilateral labour talks," Ople said in a statement.  

"We are preparing well in advance for these talks, bringing with us an accumulation of abuse done over the years, hence the need for significant changes,” Ople said, as quoted in the statement.

Earlier this week, Filipino media reported that a Filipina worker jumped from a window to escape her abusive employer and was left paralysed. 

Previous cases of abuse in Kuwait 

In 2022, the Department of Migrant Workers reported more than 24,000 violations and abuses of Filipino workers in Kuwait - a marked increase from 6,500 in 2016.

Philippines issues full ban on workers going to Kuwait after violent death of maid
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In 2020, Kuwait sentenced a Kuwaiti woman to death for killing Jeanelyn Villavende, a Filipina worker who was allegedly physically and sexually abused by her Kuwaiti employers.

An embalming certificate released by Kuwait's Ministry of Health said that Villavende died of "acute failure of heart and respiration" due to shock and multiple injuries in the vascular, and nervous systems".

However, a separate autopsy by the Philippines National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on 10 January 2020 showed the 26-year-old had healed wounds - suggesting that she was beaten weeks before her death - and had “clear indications of sexual abuse”.

The NBI's autopsy found that Villavende, reportedly beaten “black and blue”, died from "multiple, severe, traumatic injuries", including near her genitalia, suggesting she was raped before her death.

“The autopsy results from Kuwait and the NBI are essentially the same. They have the same cause of death, Villavende was mauled to death," said the Philippines Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra during a news conference in Manila. 

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