The body of a Filipino woman who was found in an abandoned apartment in Kuwait early this month arrived home on Friday.
Joanna Demafelis travelled to Kuwait in 2014 after being recruited by Mona Hassoun, a Syrian national, in hope of earning enough money to support her family back in the Philippines. Damafelis went missing in 2015 and failed to make contact with her family.
Demafelis was reported missing by a member of her family to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) in February 2015. An investigation was conducted in Kuwait but found that the agency which recruited Demafelis had shut down. Without any leads, the investigation was closed.
The frozen body was found by the landlord of the apartment on 7 February this year, after an order was attained to evict Hassoun. As he entered the apartment, the owner realised the tenants had fled, before discovering the dead body in the freezer.
“I hope my sister will be given justice,” Demaflis’ brother, Jojit, said as he watched his sister’s coffin arrive back to an airport in Manila.
In early January 2018, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte ordered that foreign employment contracts stop being granted to Kuwait due to the number of deaths among Filipinos working in the country.
“I implore you, I am making a plea to all Arabs, the Filipino is no slave to anyone, anywhere and everywhere,’ Duterte said. “Do not give us back a battered worker or a mutilated corpse.”
Duterte went on to warn Kuwait of “drastic measures” to prevent further loss of lives in the country. “What are you doing to my countrymen? And if I were to do it to your citizens here, would you be happy?” he asked.
Kuwait attempted to negotiate with Philippine’s president in order to lift the ban, but this latest death incident may have deepened the issue.
Amnesty International has frequently warned of exploitation and abuse of migrant domestic workers across the Gulf. Migrant workers equate to 90 per cent of the work force across the Gulf, who remain tied to their employers under a sponsorship system known as “Kafala” which enables their employers to confiscate their passports.
Some 2.3 million Filipino workers are documented as working abroad, largely in the Middle East.