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700 companies face visa trading charges
July 20, 2013, 9:29 am
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Around 700 companies were referred to the Public Prosecution on human trafficking charges after investigations revealed that they were involved in operations in which they obtained money illegally from workers in exchange for work visas, a local daily reported yesterday quoting an Interior Ministry insider.
 
These findings came during ongoing security operations carried out in coordination with the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, and the Kuwait Municipality, said the source who spoke to Al-Qabas on the condition of anonymity. He added that files of nearly 1,000 employers were blocked after domestic workers they hired were found working in other places.
 
According to the source, nearly 15,000 expatriates were arrested in crackdowns since the beginning of the year according to official statistics as of the end of June. Those were detained for violation of residency and labor regulations which include working with an expired visa or holding an article 20 visa given to domestic workers despite working in the private sector where employees receive an article 18 visa. In addition to those arrested, the sources revealed that nearly 10,000 others were eventually released after their employers provided their legal papers to police.
 
Meanwhile, the source revealed that around 6,000 were deported during the first half of this year, and added that 800 others are still waiting at the deportation centers. Currently, deportees are sent home only on Kuwait Airways aircrafts, which carry a maximum of 5 per flight while other airlines refuse to carry them for security reasons. The remaining detainees were reportedly released after their employers legalized their status, the source indicated.
 
Visa traffickers often exploit loopholes in the labor sponsorship system to release work permits on fake companies or nonexistent job openings, then sell them to unskilled labor forces looking for a chance to work in the oil-rich Gulf region. Once they reach Kuwait, workers in most cases end up with no physical jobs, resort to accepting hard labor and often live without valid visas. Such workers are often referred to in government rhetoric as ‘marginal labor forces’, and those have been identified by Minister of Social Affairs and Labor Thekra Al-Rashidi as the target of a plan announced last March to deport 100,000 foreigners each year as part of a plan to cut the country’s expatriate population by one million in a decade.
 
There are nearly 90,000 people living illegally in Kuwait according to official figures. Crackdowns on illegal residents resulted in thousands of arrests in the past two months, but no reports came about investigations taken to pursue traffickers who sell visas obtained illegally to labor forces. Kuwait is home to 2.6 million expatriates who make 68 percent of the country’s 3.8 million population, and the country has been the subject of criticism from international organizations in the past few years over human right violations and lack of serious efforts to tackle visa trafficking.
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