Kuwait 'deported tens of thousands of expats' in 2016-2017

Kuwait 'deported tens of thousands of expats' in 2016-2017
Two-thousand expats were deported from Kuwait in the first quarter of 2017 alone, while between 19 and 29 thousand were made to leave the country last year.
2 min read
07 May, 2017
Kuwait City [Getty]
Two-thousand expats were deported from Kuwait in the first quarter of 2017, according to statistics obtained by Kuwaiti Al-Qabas daily.

The deportations were carried out under Assistant Undersecretary for Nationality and Passports Major General Mazen Al-Jarrah, who said that among the deportations were a number of citizens from Gulf Co-Operation Council (GCC) states who had been deported for criminal activity.

Kuwait’s Directorate General of Residence had announced Saturday that over 19,000 expats were deported in 2016.

Such figures contradict the ones from the Kuwaiti interior ministry, which announced at the end of 2016 that it had deported 29,000 expats throughout the year.

Rise in xenophobia

There have been pressures on the Kuwaiti government to rebalance the “demographic imbalance”, in which expats make up an estimated 70 percent of its 4.3 million population.

This has led to the escalation of hostile sentiments against expats, and the tightening of laws and regulations to discourage them from staying in the country.

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Safaa Al-Hashem, Kuwait’s only female MP, is notorious for her populist comments against expats, including recommending that expats should be banned from obtaining driving licenses and should be taxed to walk on the streets.

Obtaining Kuwaiti driving licences has been made more difficult, by piling on stricter conditions, such as the applicant needing a university degree, having a minimum monthly salary of 600 Kuwaiti Dinars ($1967) and being a Kuwaiti resident for a minimum of two years.

Rights groups have criticised the Kuwaiti government for its handling of the deportation of expats, sometimes on flimsy grounds.

Human Rights Watch said in 2014 the effort to dramatically reduce the number of migrant workers in Kuwait "has led to the implementation of regulations to allow for swift and unlawful deportation".

However HRW praised Kuwait for recent labour reforms, and for continuing to grant it access in the country unlike other Gulf countries.