KUWAIT: The Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor is going forward with plans and strategies aimed at reorganizing the state’s demographic structure by reducing the number of expatriate labor forces. This was announced by Minister of Social Affairs and Labor Thekra Al-Rashidi who explained that the ‘reduction’ mechanism is mainly based on limiting commercial visitor’s visas to experts and staff required for major projects.
Al-Rashidi further indicated in recent statements to Al-Rai that an announcement to establish the Public Authority for Labor Forces is expected soon. The authority will work on organizing expatriate labor forces and execute the ministry’s strategy, mainly to replace the sponsorship system under which employers have expanded power over an employee’s recruitment process and visa status.
The sponsorship or ‘kafeel’ system also has loopholes often exploited by visa traffickers to release work permits on fake companies or non-existent job openings and then sell them to unskilled labor forces looking for a chance to work in the oil-rich Gulf region. Once they reach Kuwait, workers in most cases end up with no physical jobs, and resort to accepting hard labor and often live without valid visas. Such workers are often referred to in government rhetoric as ‘marginal labor forces’, and they have been identified by Al-Rashidi as the target of a plan announced last March to deport 100,000 foreigners each year as part of a plan to cut the country’s expatriate population by one million within a decade.
There are nearly 90,000 people living illegally in Kuwait according to official figures. Crackdowns on illegal residents resulted in thousands of arrests and deportations over the past few months, but no there was no news about steps taken to pursue traffickers. Kuwait has been the subject of criticism from rights groups over the past few years over human rights’ violations resulting mainly from practices relating to deficiencies in the sponsorship system. Kuwait is home to 2.6 million expatriates who make 68 percent of the country’s 3.8 million population.