Suspect arrested in death of Filipino maid found in a freezer, officials say

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The employer of a Filipino domestic worker, whose battered body was found in a freezer in an apartment in Kuwait City, has been arrested, Philippine officials said.

Nader Essam Assaf, a Lebanese national, is in custody in Lebanon, according to a statement from the Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs. Assaf's wife, Mona, who is Syrian, is still at large and is believed to be in Syria, the statement said.
Philippine officials said couple are the principal suspects in the brutal torture and killing of Joanna Daniela Demafelis, 29.
 
Joanna Daniela Demafelis went to Kuwait in 2014 to earn money to send home to her family.
 
Assaf and his wife have been the subject of an Interpol manhunt after Kuwaiti authorities discovered Demafelis' body in the freezer earlier this month. Authorities said they believe the woman's body could have been stored there for up to one year.
 

Woman's family reported her missing

Demafelis' family lost contact with her in May 2016, about two years after she arrived in the Middle East, according to CNN Philippines.
Relatives said she never said anything bad about her employers but they suspected she was being watched closely. Demafelis was only able to speak to them three times a year, they told the network.
A casket containing Demafelis' body arrives last week in Manila.
 
During what would be her final phone call home, Demafelis said she planned to come to the Philippines in 2018. But after not hearing from her for a nearly year, Demafelis' family reported her missing, her sister told CNN Philippines.
Investigators tried to find her through the Kuwaiti agency that recruited her but discovered it had closed down. Police didn't discover her body until investigators set their sights on her Lebanese employer, who had been accused of falsifying checks.

Thousands of overseas workers in Kuwait

Kuwait has become a popular destination for workers from the Philippines in recent years. The Kuwaiti Ministry of Foreign Affairs said 276,000 Filipino workers were in Kuwait in January.
Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Cayetano said in a statement that President Rodrigo Duterte had been informed about Assaf's arrest. Cayetano said he expects authorities to seek the Lebanese man's extradition so he can stand trial in Kuwait.
Citing Demafelis' death and instances of worker abuse, Duterte's government offered free flights home for the 10,000 or so Filipinos who had overstayed their visas and ordered a ban on the further deployment of workers to Kuwait.

Labor from new countries to lower recruitment fees

The Cabinet’s decision to assign Al-Durra for Manpower Company to bring in workers from new countries such as Indonesia, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Nepal and others will lower recruitment fees and ensure the rights of employers and employees, the company’s General Manager Saleh Al-Wuhaib said yesterday. The company is working hard to bring domestic workers from new countries in coordination with the concerned Kuwaiti authorities, Wuhaib told KUNA. He also stressed the company’s efforts to ensure the employees were healthy and fit to work, saying that such efforts will be in coordination with the health ministry and the countries providing manpower.

He explained that the company handles all recruitment procedures with symbolic prices, high efficiency and speed of completion, in addition to qualifying them through courses in their countries. Al-Durra is the first company in Kuwait to be formed from national bodies concerned with the public’s interest. It was established to achieve a qualitative leap in this type of business, as it carries a national and humanitarian vision in the management of the labor market, he said.

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The company started to bring in experienced Sri Lankan cooks with recruitment fees of KD 500-600 ($1,650-1,980). Their salaries range from KD 120-170 ($400-560). Wuhaib said external bodies of employment abroad are responsible for determining the fees for labor recruitment in accordance with the laws of those countries, adding that the cost of recruiting Sri Lankan domestic workers was at about KD 960 ($3,215) with the company gaining 10 percent from the recruitment process.

The rise in the cost of recruiting Sri Lankan domestic workers is due to the increase in the fees of employment offices in Sri Lanka, which range between KD 550-600 ($1,815-1,980), as well as the official procedures of medical examination, transportation and fingerprinting, that cost about KD 240-300. The company receives about 200 daily calls from customers to request the employment of Sri Lankan workers, said Wuhaib. He added that the prices of recruiting labor at private agencies are between KD 1,200-1,500 ($3,960-4,950).

Al-Durra for Manpower Company, in accordance with law no. 69/2015, is a Kuwaiti company specialized in the recruitment of foreign workers. Its ownership is distributed between the Union of Consumer Co-Operative Societies by 60 percent, General Authority for Investment with 10 percent, General Organization for Social Insurance 10 percent, the General Authority for Minors Affairs 10 percent and Kuwait Airways 10 percent.

Source:  KUNA

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.

POEA revokes licenses of 10 agencies for recruitment violations

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 21) — The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) has revoked the licenses of 10 recruitment agencies found guilty of recruitment violations.

POEA announced this in a document Wednesday.

The move comes after Secretary of Labor Silvestre Bello III ordered the fast-tracking of cases of recruitment agencies.

The overseas labor administration listed an initial 10 agencies penalized with cancellation of their license:

  • Al Bayan International Manpower Services Co.
  • Bumiputra Gulf Company Inc.
  • Gold Fortune Human Resources Corp.
  • LFC International Human Resources
  • Aisis International Manpower Incorporated
  • Greatworld International Management Inc.
  • GlobalGate International Manpower Services Inc.
  • MMML Recruitment Services Inc.
  • SML Human Resources Inc.
  • Best Migrant Workers International Manpower Services Inc.

It also included recruitment agency NRS Placement, which it penalized with a four-month license suspension.

Agencies with revoked licenses are no longer permitted to recruit or place overseas workers for employment.

POEA added five of its personnel will be charged with “appropriate cases.”

The crack down on violators comes amid heightened government scrutiny on abuses of OFWs following the death of Filipina worker Joanna Demafelis.Demafelis’ body was found stored in a freezer in Kuwait.

Her death has spurred a total ban on the deployment of Filipino workers to Kuwait, in addition to a Senate probe on the treatment of OFWs working abroad.

Philippine officials to visit Kuwait amid worker row

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Topping the list are demands that Filipino workers be allowed to keep their cellphones and passports

Philippine officials are headed to Kuwait on Thursday to seek greater protection for migrant workers after a diplomatic row over the alleged mistreatment of Filipinos in the Gulf state.

Labour Secretary Silvestre Bello told reporters Wednesday one of his deputies would lead the delegation, which is also due to stop in Saudia Arabia and Qatar to urge reforms.

 

Topping the list are demands that Filipino workers be allowed to keep their cellphones and passports, which can be confiscated by employers.

The trip comes after Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte last week announced a departure ban for Filipinos planning to work in Kuwait.

He was responding to the murder of a Filipina maid whose body was found stuffed in a freezer in Kuwait this month.

Duterte’s ban sparked a diplomatic flap between the Philippines and the Gulf state as he alleged that Arab employers routinely raped their Filipina workers, forced them to work 21 hours a day and fed them scraps.

Kuwait has invited Duterte for a visit but he has yet to respond.

Authorities say some 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.

“We are going to Kuwait tomorrow, Saudi Arabia and then on to Qatar to ensure that our overseas Filipino workers have sufficient protection,” said Labour Undersecretary Ciriaco Lagunzad, who will helm the delegation.

“We are afraid that because of the decision of the president to have a deployment ban, our overseas Filipino workers in Kuwait might be affected,” he added.

Lagunzad said Duterte had ordered the team to ensure that the passports of Filipino workers are deposited with the Philippine embassy.

Duterte also wanted Filipinos to have access to cellphones so they can call for help in case of abuse, Lagunzad said.

About 10 million Filipinos work abroad and their treatment abroad is often a political issue at home.

Another team of labour officials said on Wednesday they would conduct negotiations with Kuwait next week on a deal to protect Filipino workers.

“Hopefully we can finalise the memorandum of agreement and by first or second week of March, we will have the signing by the Kuwaiti and Philippine governments,” said Claro Arellano, another labour undersecretary.

Kuwaiti girl who joined Daesh exonerated

Defendant’s lawyer blamed well-known Kuwaiti preachers of influencing the youth

Manama: Kuwait’s Court of Appeals has upheld a decision by a lower court not to sentence a young girl accused of joining the Daesh terror group in northern Sinai, Egypt.

In November last year, the Criminal Court said that it would not issue a ruling against the young girl who was not named publicly.

 
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In its ruling, the court said that imams and preachers had a significant role in ensuring the stability of society and should therefore confront those who deceive young men and women.

Both courts seem to have accepted the arguments of the defendant’s lawyer, Khalid Al Kafeefa, who said in his pleadings that several well-known Kuwaiti preachers had encouraged young people to engage in the fighting in Syria and Iraq.

The lawyer said that these preachers were the main reason for his client to join a terror group in Sinai, explaining that her young age made her vulnerable and easily impressionable.

The Kuwaiti defendant was put on trial after the public prosecution accused her of joining a terror group from 2015 until 2017.

Son of former Pakistani cricketer commits suicide after being snubbed by selectors

Mohammad Zaryab committed suicide by hanging himself over "non-selection in an Under-19 cricket team"

Islamabad: Former Pakistani cricketer Aamer Hanif's son has committed suicide by hanging himself over "non-selection in an Under-19 cricket team".

Mohammad Zaryab, who was a first-year college student and Hanif's oldest son, killed himself on Monday.

 

According to Hanif, who represented Pakistan in five ODIs during the 1990s, his son was upset after he was declared "too old" to be selected for the U-19s, Geo News reported on Tuesday.

Zaryab had in January represented Karachi in an U-19 tournament in Lahore, from where he was "sent home over an injury". The teenager had resisted the move, but he was given an assurance that he would be selected again, the report said.

However, he was rejected later on the grounds of being an "overage player".

Hanif said his son "was forced to commit suicide by coaches and people overseeing the affairs of Under-19 cricket in the country".

"My son was pressurised... The coaches' behaviour towards him forced him (to kill himself)," said Hanif, as he pleaded for "other such sons to be saved" from "such (non-cooperative) environment".

President Duterte to Visit Wake of Joanna Demafelis within this week in their hometown in Iloilo

President Rodrigo Duterte is scheduled to visit the wake of overseas Filipino worker (OFW) Joanna Demafelis in Sara town in Iloilo this week, Malacañang said on Monday.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque confirmed this when asked if Duterte has plans to visit the wake of Demafelis, whose corpse was found kept inside a freezer in Kuwait

Roque, however, did not disclose the exact date of Mr. Duterte’s visit.


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But Roque said that the government would extend financial and burial assistance to the family of the murdered OFW.

“Death (and burial benefits), financial assistance to the family. And I am sure the President will announce other contribution,” he told reporters in Malacañang.

Demafelis’ remains arrived in Manila last Friday and was flown to her hometown in Iloilo on Saturday.

The case of Demafelis and other reported abuses among OFWs have prompted Mr. Duterte to impose a total employment ban of Filipino workers to Kuwait.

After Kuwait, Duterte eyes deployment ban in other countries

MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte has said the ban on the overseas deployment of Filipinos may also be imposed on other countries after his administration halted sending Filipino workers to Kuwait over reported abuses. 

“The ban will continue and it will extend to other countries. Mahirapan sila... Well, humihingi na ako ng tawad sa inyo. I will not allow… Hindi… Wala akong kaplano na ipadala kayo doon tapos babuyin kayo. Hindi ko style ‘yan,” Duterte said in a speech Monday.

Duterte did not disclose the countries where he is planning the imposition of a deployment ban. In a press briefing Tuesday, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said he has no idea which countries the President was referring to.

Duterte recently ordered a deployment ban to Kuwait after the death of several overseas Filipino workers in the Gulf state, including Joanna Demafelis, whose body was recently found inside a freezer at an abandoned apartment there. 

In his speech, Duterte reiterated that “the Filipino is a slave of nobody.”

“The Filipino seeks to work abroad to earn a living so that he can help his family because the economy here, local, cannot absorb the entire workforce who would want to [work],” he said.

The President also appealed to other countries hosting Filipino workers to ensure that they are treated humanely.

“The only thing… that we ask is that you give us the dignity of a human being, you treat us humanely, be tolerant of our cultural differences and do not abuse our women because it will inflict a long and lasting wound. Maybe this generation cannot and will not forget it,” Duterte said.

“That is why, I’m addressing myself, not only to Kuwait but to the entire nations in the world to say that Filipinos are everywhere seeking livelihood, can I please plead to you? Please do not degrade them like animals, do not treat them as a slave," said the President. 

Reported abuses of Filipino workers in Kuwait have also prompted the government to repatriate Filipinos from the Gulf state who would like to come home.

There are an estimated 10 million Filipinos overseas, many of whom work as household service workers. 

 

Source : ABS-CBN News

UK is considering a ‘permanent military presence’ in Kuwait

Michael Davenport, British Ambassador to Kuwait, revealed during an exclusive interview with Forces Network that Britain is considering a permanent military presence in Kuwait.

Davenport reportedly said that the Kuwaiti government originally expressed interest in the idea.

“We’re looking at all the possibilities. We’re not talking about a major deployment I don’t think, but we’re looking at what might work for both the United Kingdom and for Kuwait. As I say, it’s at a very early stage.”

In addition to supporting the counter-Daesh coalition, the British partnership with Kuwait includes joint exercising and training packages delivered to Kuwait’s military institutions and Armed Forces.

Last year at the invitation of Kuwait MOD, command personnel from 51 Brigade participated in the US-led multinational exercise Eagle Resolve 15, designed to simulate the combined defence of Kuwait. Due to its success and the strong Defence relationship with Kuwait, personnel from 51 Brigade have been invited to participate in this exercise again next year. Additionally, the Army has accepted an invitation for 2nd Battalion Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment to conduct a Land Overseas Training Exercise with Kuwait Land Forces next year to rehearse joint operational planning and deployment.

For many years the UK has continued to advise and develop Kuwait’s Armed Forces through a team of embedded UK officers under the British Military Mission in Kuwait, carrying out a number of supporting roles across Kuwait’s military institutions.