Why is Kuwait Deporting Migrant Workers?

Published November 9th, 2019 - 10:39 GMT
Kuwait has embarked on mass deportations of expatriate workers in 2019. Is this a trend that is likely to continue?

Kuwait has deported more than 18,000 expatriates from the beginning of this year until the end of September. The 12,000 men and 6,000 women sent back to their countries were deported for various reasons, including violating residency and work laws, infectious diseases that made them unfit for work, criminal cases and other violations of state law.

The interior ministry had previously indicated that almost 148,000 expatriates of various nationalities were deported from 2013 until this year. The population of Kuwait is approximately 4.5 million, of which 1.5 million are citizens and the rest non-citizens. One third of expatriates in Kuwait are domestic workers, according to figures from the first quarter of 2019, or 715,000 workers. I think the number of deported people is not large, but it is interesting to note that men exceed the number of women deportees.

There are two types of deportation – administrative and judicial. The former is under the authority of the interior ministry, while the latter is judicial deportation, which occurs when a court convicts a person. In recent years, deportation authorities have been trying to speed up the process of deporting expats to their homelands, which is important and required since there is no point in keeping undesirable persons in Kuwait and away from their homelands, and perhaps from finding new means of livelihood.

I believe that the worst thing that can happen to an expatriate worker is an absconding report or the expiry of their residence, even if they are in Kuwait. So, they need to check with the department of labor within 60 days, because if they don’t correct their status or decide to ignore the law and not leave, they will be fined KD 2 per day from the date of the expiry of the residency. If caught by police, they will be deported and will not be able to return again.

In fact, a worker can inquire about any absconding report on the website of the Public Authority for Manpower. As for false absconding reports, if a worker has proof, they can submit a letter addressed to the Central Administration for Residency Affairs to complete the complaint procedures and amend their legal status.

Certainly, deportation inflicts psychological and social damage on any person. The expatriate must know the laws of the country. So, when they go to the Kuwaiti embassy in their country, they need to fully understand the laws of Kuwait, so they know what they are up to.
I think ignorance of the law may be the main cause of problems leading to deportation, for example, especially in the case of immediate termination of service and the submission of an absconding report against the worker. So they cannot follow up their claims and financial dues because they may have financial benefits such as end of service indemnity.

I know that an expatriate can hire a local lawyer, but the presence of the person outside the country makes it difficult for them to follow up with foreign law firms continuously, and they may not even have the money. I hope that the lawyer of the embassy of the country to whom the expat belongs is the one who represents them, so the embassy is the right place to go to in the event of a judicial ruling. Of course the reality is that many low income workers have little to no protections. They may be exploited or mistreated by their employers and their embassies usually do little to nothing to help them. (some embassies are, of course, more proactive than others).

The deportation of expatriates is something that happens in many countries around the world. The question is more with how transparent and fair the process is.

Muna Al-Fuzai is a columnist in Kuwait Times

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