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Kuwait to reopen foreign labour recruitment soon
February 4, 2014, 9:44 pm
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While Kuwait plans to reopen the door for companies to recruit foreign labor forces freely, there is a serious consideration to limit the duration of visit visas and make them nonrenewable until better regulations to tackle visa trafficking are introduced. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor announced two weeks ago that transferring visit visas to work permits in the private sector was suspended for one month in order to introduce better regulations to organize the operation, amid complaints that it has flaws that allow violations including visa trafficking and issuance of visas illegally. The ministry has closed foreign labor recruitment multiple times in the past few years in a bid to curb the state’s increasing demographic imbalance, with exception given to companies that have contracts signed with the government to carry out developmental projects. There is currently a shortlist of nearly 50 job categories for which employers can receive permission to recruit foreign labor forces.
 
New investigation
On Sunday, a senior MSAL official announced that the door to recruiting labor forces from outside Kuwait “for every activity and without exceptions” will be reopened in the near future, explaining at the same time that the ministry is currently working on the executive regulations that will be followed. “An announcement for the time and mechanism of reopening work permits’ issuance is pending a report from the committee that was formed to study best ways to transfer commercial visit visas to work permits in the private sector,” said Jamal Al-Dousary, who is the Assistant Undersecretary for the Labor Sector. Meanwhile, Dousary urged companies who have contracts with the government to “take advantage of the exception” that they have and apply for work permits instead of recruiting laborers on visit visas. He also announced in a statement carried by Al-Qabas yesterday that an investigation will be opened over reports that revealed a lack of discipline in labor departments, including the Capital Labor Department where cleaning workers were reportedly assigned to stamp official papers.
 
Separately, Al- Anbaa daily reported yesterday that the Interior Ministry is expected to announce a decision ‘within hours’ that bans immigration departments around Kuwait from renewing commercial visit visas. The visa is currently valid for one month with an option to be renewed for an additional month. But according to sources quoted in the report, the decree makes the one-month visa nonrenewable, and allows those who entered Kuwait most recently to apply for a 15-day extension. The decree is set to be released by Maj Gen Sheikh Faisal Al-Nawaf Al-Sabah, the Assistant Undersecretary for Citizenship and Passports Affairs, and will become effective as of March 1, 2014, said the sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
 
Human trafficking
Regarding the reason behind this step, the sources said that it comes as part of efforts to address “loopholes that were taken advantage of recently”. “The new procedures come after several cases were detected in which commercial licenses were used in visa trafficking,” the sources said. They added that Sheikh Faisal is “seriously considering” making hotel reservations a mandatory condition to obtain a visit visa. Visa trafficking is a form of human trafficking in which workers are brought by work permits issued illegally through loopholes found in the sponsorship or ‘kafala’ system that organizes the affairs of the country’s expatriate labor force.
 
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 physical job and becomes prone to hard labor, mistreatment and extortion by asking large amounts of money to renew their expired visas. In other news, Al-Jarida quoted MSAL insiders who expressed optimism that Kuwait’s ranking will be improved in the International Labor Organization’s report when it comes to human rights. Kuwait is currently ranked in the last of three possible categories for countries that pay little attention to honoring human rights, but the sources said that there are several factors that help the Gulf state improve by one stage by the time the next ILO report is released in May.
 
According to the sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity, the factors include passing a law against human trafficking that was approved in the parliament last year, as well as a law to establish a labor public authority which will serve as a replacement for the sponsorship system. Other factors include building a shelter for domestic helpers with a capacity of 700 runaways, as well as the government’s announcement of plans to naturalize 4,000 bedoons this year, the sources added
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