Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

Kuwait City — Kuwait will recruit Ethiopian nationals to make up for a "deficit" in domestic workers, authorities said on Tuesday, following the grisly murder of a Filipina maid in the Gulf state.

The Philippines banned its citizens from working in Kuwait after the body of Joanna Demafelis was found in a freezer earlier this year, bearing signs of torture.

"We aim to open the door to the recruitment of Ethiopian workers to fill the deficit of domestic servants and reduce prices," General Talal Al-Maarifi, head of Kuwait’s general department of residency affairs, told AFP.

Five years ago, Ethiopia instituted a similar ban, following reports of abuse and complaints that employment agencies lured its citizens to work under illegal and appalling conditions. The ban was lifted last Thursday.

Maarifi said there were more than 15,000 Ethiopians currently living and working in Kuwait. In March 2017, Kuwaiti police detained a woman for filming her Ethiopian maid falling from the seventh floor without trying to rescue her. The 12-second video shows the maid hanging outside the building, with one hand tightly gripping the window frame, as she begs for help.

Rights groups have voiced alarm over the plight of workers in the Gulf and other Arab countries, where migrant labour is regulated under a system known as "kafala". The kafala, or sponsorship, system ties migrant workers’ visas to their employers, prohibiting workers from leaving the country or changing jobs without prior consent.