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Expats in Kuwait: A Burden on the State?

From today’s Kuwait Times . . . .


KUWAIT: The government has sent a draft law to the parliament stipulating an increase in fees collected from expatriate residents for using public services in Kuwait, a senior state official said in statements reported yesterday by the local press.

Minister of Cabinet Affairs Sheikh Mohammad Al-Abdullah Al-Sabah further indicated that the proposal is currently under review primarily to ensure it was in keeping with the constitution. “The state pays KD6 billion to subsidize public services, including electricity and water, while only KD2 billion of it is the average share of Kuwaitis,” he told a gathering of third constituency women voters at MP Ahmad Al-Mulaifi’s dewaniya on Monday night.

He also termed the remaining KD4 billion, a cost which supposedly the government bears for services used by expatriates, “a burden on the state.” Al-Sabah, who is also the State Minister for Municipality Affairs, added that similar steps have been adopted in the rest of the Gulf Cooperation Council states to increase the state revenue from expatriates. “Unfortunately, Kuwait’s law prohibits the government from increasing the fees unilaterally,” he said, referring to regulations which stipulate that such decisions must be passed by the parliament before becoming effective.

The minister’s statement is the latest turn in the government’s efforts seen targeted at the country’s expatriate community which comprises two thirds of the population, including a Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor announcement to deport 100,000 foreigners annually as part of a ‘demographic balance restoration plan’; the details of which are yet to be announced.

Meanwhile, Undersecretary Assistant for Traffic Affairs in the Interior Ministry, Major General Abdulfattah Al-Ali, announced that 213 expats were deported in the past few days for committing ‘grave’ traffic violations. In this regard, Al-Ali told Al-Rai on Tuesday that deportations only happen in cases where people have a record of repeated violations. “An expatriate who commits the same violation over and over again must be deported in the public interest,” he said, calling a person in this case as “abnormal” and “untreatable.” According to the ministry, the violations warranting deportation include driving without a driver’s license, jumping the red traffic light for a second time, using private vehicles to carry passengers and exceeding speed limits by 40 km. Al-Ali refuted the notion that the recent deportations were connected to the MSAL’s plan mentioned above.

Minister of Social Affairs and Labor Thekra Al-Rashidi had indicated that the annual deportation plan, through which the government hopes to deport a million foreigners in ten years, is chiefly going to target ‘marginal labor forces’ or workers who usually accept menial jobs and often live without valid visas.

Such workers are often the victim of visa traffickers who exploit loopholes in the ministry’s system to release work permits in the name of fake companies or nonexistent job openings, and then sell them to unskilled labor forces looking for a chance to work in the oil-rich Gulf region. The system is based on the kafala (sponsorship of foreign workers) program which is often criticized by international organizations for human right violations recorded in Kuwait and the entire region.

On a related note, Al-Rai reported yesterday that the social affairs and interior ministries are studying the possibility of creating an ‘amnesty period’ during the summer to allow illegal residents to leave Kuwait or obtain a new visa without paying the cumulative fines.

Anonymous sources were quoted in the report as saying that the project depends on the two ministries’ ability to “plug some loopholes” which could make violators irresponsive to it. “For example, we cannot expect Bangladeshi nationals staying illegally in Kuwait to leave when they know that they will be banned by law in this case from ever returning to Kuwait,” one source explained. “There are violators who become stuck in Kuwait due to circumstances in their home countries combined with regulations that prevent them from issuing a residency in Kuwait.

Legal obstacles in similar cases need to be removed before an amnesty period is announced,” the source added.


May 2, 2013 - Posted by | Community, Cultural, ExPat Life, Financial Issues, Kuwait, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Work Related Issues

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