As the “Kuwaitization” of the country accelerates, a first look into the “Foreign Residents Bill” reveals far-reaching plans to eventually deport hundreds of thousands.
Rabat – On August 11, Kuwaiti newspaper Al Qabas published the full text of the “Foreign Residency Bill” that aims to purge thousands of foreign workers from Kuwait. National Assembly Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanim has submitted an additional proposal that was published on August 10. Speaker Al-Ghanim’s proposal had laid out a proposal to deport any “excess” workers before 2025.
The ‘Foreign Residency Bill’
The Kuwaiti cabinet has approved the new draft law, which aims to drastically curb the number of foreign workers in the country. The bill will soon be the focus of a debate in the National Assembly, after which it may become law.
The bill targets foreign workers employed illegally in Kuwait, as well as “visa traders” that facilitate their entry into Kuwait. Heavy fines would face those caught facilitating the illegal entry of new foreign workers. Workers overstaying their visa or entering the country illegally would also face fines.
“Visa traders” could receive prison sentences of up to three years. There would also be fines between $16,350 and $33,000 per foreign worker found breaching the potential new law. Repeat offenders and offenders employed in the public sector would see their punishment doubled.
Article one of the new bill defines more rigorous requirements for foreign passport holders, but exempts citizens of fellow GCC countries. The GCC exemption in the bill reveals a particular government focus to purge foreign workers from South Asia, who make up a significant section of expats in Kuwait.
The bill further aims to ensure long-term foreign workers legally employed in Kuwait register locally-born children at the Interior Ministry and produce a passport for the child.
Foreigners on short-term stays would experience closer monitoring as hotels and rental properties would need to share data on their tenants within 48 hours of arrival and departure.
The bill appears to recognize that many native Kuwaitis directly employ foreign workers in their businesses or homes. Domestic workers would be eligible for residency, but would surrender that right from the moment they stop working for their current employer.
The provisions could make it harder for domestic workers to switch employers. This could make them a potential target for abuse or exploitation as their employer could at any time get them deported.
Kuwaiti women who aim to obtain a residence permit for a foreign husband and children would need to prove that both parents work in the private sector. Working for an NGO or public institution disqualifies potential applicants, and women who have become Kuwaiti through marriage cannot apply.
Noticeably, the bill neglects to impose any provisions on Kuwaiti men who have married foreign women. Foreign wives or widows with Kuwaiti-born children would be eligible for residency.
The new Foreign Residency Bill makes it significantly easier for Kuwait’s Interior Ministry to deport foreign workers. Losing employment, or being deemed “unnecessary” by the Interior Ministry, could be sufficient grounds for deportation. Those not advancing the country’s “public, security or moral interest” would become eligible for deportation.
Any foreign person entering Kuwait would have their temporary stay limited to three months, after which they would need to leave the country if unable to apply for a one-year extension. The Interior Ministry would determine conditions for an extension as it sees fit.
While the draft bill does not explicitly call for the deportations of thousands, it does provide the legislative abilities for government entities to purge whomever they deem not in the country’s interest. Those interests could easily evolve over time. This would mean any foreign worker in the country could eventually become a target for deportation as political priorities change.
Anti-immigration momentum in Kuwait is growing, with calls to purge foreign workers featuring in mainstream publications. The draft bill that followed a public proposal by National Assembly Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanim and four members of parliaments is much more direct in its desire to reduce the local expat population.
The proposal aims to put a cap on foreign workers within six months and deport thousands of “surplus workers” within five years. The recruitment of foreign workers would be limited to numbers set by the government on a yearly basis.
The speaker’s proposal recognizes that many foreign workers cannot afford to leave Kuwait, even if they would want to. If Kuwait accepted the proposal, it would establish a fund to pay for flights and unpaid wages if the worker’s employer has been found unwilling to pay in court. The fund would also pay relatives of foreign workers who die during their work in Kuwait.
Foreign workers themselves would pay for the fund. The bill would mandate a “solidarity fee” when applying for new residency papers, a driver’s license, or car registration. Furthermore, the fee will add to the cost of flight tickets issued in Kuwait.
The speaker’s proposal and Foreign Residency Bill have set tough new rules for Kuwait’s large population of foreign workers. Morocco World News will continue to follow and report on the issue as it makes its way through Kuwait’s legislative body.