Philippine officials in Kuwait to discuss the issue of workers

The Philippine president says employers are forcing their Filipino maids to work 21 hours a day and give them food scraps.

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KUWAIT (Reuters) - Philippine officials on Thursday are to meet with Kuwait's authorities on improving the conditions of Filipino workers there after a diplomatic dispute erupted between Manila and Manila over alleged abuse of Kuwaiti nationals.

Labor Minister Sylvester Bello told reporters that one of his deputies would lead the delegation, which is also due to stop in Saudi Arabia and Qatar to urge them to carry out reforms to their Filipino employment conditions. At the head of the delegation's demands is that Filipino workers be allowed to keep their phones and passports, which can be confiscated by employers and employers.

The visit comes after Philippine President Rodrigo Duterti announced last week a travel ban for Filipinos to work in Kuwait and urged those there to return to their country. Duterte's decision came after the body of a young Filipino maid hidden in a refrigerator was found earlier this month.

Dutherti went on to criticize Kuwait after the maid died and said employers forced their maids to work 21 hours a day and provide them with food scraps.

Philippine authorities say 252,000 Filipinos work in Kuwait, most of them from domestic workers. This segment of workers is not covered by the ordinary labor law in Kuwait.

Kuwait has invited Dotterti to visit her but has yet to respond. "We will go to Kuwait on Thursday and then Saudi Arabia to make sure our workers there have adequate protection," Deputy Labor Minister Kyriaku Lagunzad, who will head the delegation, said. "We fear that our workers in Kuwait will be affected by the president's decision to ban work in this country," he said.

Lagunzad noted that the delegation had received orders to confirm that the passports of Filipino workers should remain in the hands of the Manila embassy in Kuwait.

He also explained that Douteri wanted his citizens to keep their cell phones to use if they were abused. About 10 million Filipinos work outside their country and the funds they send to the Philippines are a major boost to their economy.

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