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Joanna Demafelis: Employers of Filipina maid found dead in freezer arrested

Joanna Demafelis: Employers of Filipina maid found dead in freezer arrested

Duterte fumed over the death of Demafelis, who was beaten by her employers and stuffed inside a freezer in an abandoned apartment.

Her death has prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to order the repatriation of distressed OFWs from Kuwait.

Philippines foreign secretary Alan Peter Cayetano welcomed the news of the arrests, calling it a "critical first step in our quest for justice for Joanna".

In a statement, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said they have already been informed by the Philippine Embassy in Kuwait about the arrest of Hassoun.

The couple have been the subjects of an global manhunt aided by Interpol since the body of Joanna Demafelis, 29, was discovered in their abandoned apartment more than a year after she was reported missing.

Assaf and his wife have been the subject of an Interpol manhunt after Kuwaiti authorities discovered Demafelis' body in the freezer earlier this month.

The employers of a Filipina maid found dead in a freezer in Kuwait were both arrested in the Syrian capital Damascus, a Lebanese judicial official said on Saturday, February 24.

"Syria kept custody of the wife because she is a Syrian national", he added.

Duterte also said Demafelis's body bore signs of torture and strangulation.

President Duterte has condemned what he believes is a pattern of abuse against Filipino workers. Duterte and other officials have asked Kuwaiti authorities to hunt for the couple. Philippine officials are headed to Kuwait February 22 to seek greater protection for migrant workers, after a diplomatic row over the alleged mistreatment of Filipinos in the Gulf state. The government, the president continued, would conduct an assessment to "find out the places where we deploy Filipinos and our countrymen suffer brutal treatment and human degradation".

The maid was one of millions of Filipinos who travel overseas to work as maids, hotel staff and construction workers.

The Philippines is a major labour exporter with about a tenth of its more than 100 million people working overseas. The remittances they send home has propped up the country's economy for decades.

"The operation of the Command Center will help ensure that all the concerns of our OFWs are attended to, especially if the incident involving them needs immediate action and assistance", Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said in a statement. Most of these workers worked as household servants.

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