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Amnesty expected for illegal expats before July
February 11, 2014, 11:33 pm
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Kuwait is likely to grant amnesty to illegal expatriates sometime before July, according to a report published yesterday quoting a Ministry of Interior insider. The amnesty allows people in violation of residency regulations to leave the country without paying fines or risk being blacklisted. A decision on this is expected anytime before the end of the first half of 2014, and was mulled in light of reports that indicate that the number of illegals has reached over 120,000, according to the source who spoke to Al-Anbaa daily on the condition of anonymity.
 
Illegal residents are those with expired visas, facing criminal court cases or fugitives as well as those currently detained or reported absconding. Around 42,000 expatriates living illegally in Kuwait benefited from a four-month amnesty period which ended on June 30, 2011, according to the Interior Ministry. Crackdowns on illegal residents, which started in April last year and resulted in thousands of expatriates being arrested and deported, will continue before and during the expected amnesty period, the source said. No specific details were given on the duration of the amnesty period or when it might begin.
 
Similar news surfaced in the local press last month suggesting that an amnesty was expected ‘in early 2014’. Al-Anbaa also reported yesterday that Maj Gen Sheikh Faisal Al-Nawaf Al-Sabah, the Assistant Undersecretary for Citizenship and Passports Affairs, has given approval for a group of expatriates to transfer their visas which expired due to problems the workers have with their employers.
 
Visa transfer The senior official had recently started welcoming expatriates who have complaints against their employers in order to discuss ways to resolve their issues. In the meantime, the security source revealed that Sheikh Faisal plans to give orders to allow residents to transfer their visas if verification confirms that obstacles prevented their visa renewal, under the condition that the worker pays the fines starting from the visa’s expiry date, up to a maximum of KD 600. Many of those living illegally in Kuwait are victims of scams or cases known locally as ‘visa trafficking’, which is a form of human trafficking in which workers are brought in by work permits issued illegally through loopholes in the foreign labor recruitment system. Victims of visa traffickers are mostly low-wage workers who come from Southeast Asia, North Africa and other countries seeking work in the oil-rich Gulf region. Once they reach Kuwait, a worker is left with no job and becomes prone to hard labor, mistreatment and extortion by paying large amounts of money to renew their expired visas.
 
Legal action Earlier this week, a local daily reported that Minister of Social Affairs and Labor Hind Al- Subaih gave orders to pursue legal action against 43 companies on trafficking charges, and put 2,000 others under examination on similar accusations. The sponsorship or ‘kafala’ system handles the affairs of Kuwait’s population of 2.7 million expatriates who make up 68 percent of the country’s 3.9 million population. But the system has been the cause of criticism against Kuwait, both from inside and outside, as it is blamed for violations practiced against low-skilled labor forces. Furthermore, the system lacks regulations to organize the affairs of more than 800,000 domestic workers in the state. The Public Labor Authority, which the parliament had passed a bill to establish last year, is touted as Kuwait’s alternative to the flawed recruitment system. Once set up, the authority will exclusively handle the affairs of expatriate labor forces including hiring in local companies based on employers’ requirements. Despite pressure to launch the authority as soon as possible, there is currently no set date for when it will officially start functioning.
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