KUWAIT - Kuwait has suspended all new visas for Philippine nationals indefinitely, the interior ministry confirmed this week, in an escalation of a row between the oil-rich Gulf state and Manila over worker protections and employer rights.

Philippine nationals make up around 6% of Kuwait's 4.7 million population, government data shows. Kuwaitis make up 32%.

The visa suspension comes after the Philippines in February stopped the first-time deployment of domestic workers to Kuwait.

Large numbers of Philippine citizens work overseas, with around 10% of its gross domestic product coming from remittances.

The interior ministry on Wednesday said the Philippines had violated a bilateral labour agreement. The two countries signed an agreement in 2018 following a previous row over worker protections.

A week ago the Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs said all actions taken by the Philippines Embassy and government are "to ensure the safety and welfare of our own nationals".

"Providing protection to a country's citizens abroad is a well-established duty of consular offices under international law and conventions," the statement said.

The Philippine embassy in Kuwait did not respond to a request for comment.

(Reporting by Ahmed Hagagy and Lisa Barrington; Editing by Conor Humphries)