Kuwait planning to deport 360,000 migrant workers

Kuwait planning to deport 360,000 migrant workers
A bill making the rounds among Kuwait's government aims to deport as many as 360,000 migrant workers from the Gulf country.
2 min read
12 August, 2020
Foreigners make up around 70 percent of Kuwait's workforce [Getty]
Kuwait's cabinet approved a bill that could deport as many as 360,000 migrant workers, the Kuwait Times reported on Tuesday, as the Gulf country deals with an economic slump due to low oil revenue compounded by the coronavirus pandemic.

The bill, which aims to "drastically cut the number of expats" in Kuwait, will be sent to the country's National Assembly for approval.

The draft law lays out harsher penalties for migrant workers who overstay their visas, enter the country illegally, pay to obtain and renew visas, and work for employers who are not sponsoring them. 

In a Monday report, the Kuwait Times reported the government aims to deport 120,000 "illegal workers", 150,000 expats aged over 60, as well as 90,000 "marginal and poorly-educated labourers".

Excluded from the draft law are some 700,000 domestic workers, spouses and children of Kuwaitis, GCC nationals, diplomats and their families, workers on government contracts and flight crews.

The bill also plans to set up a "solidarity fund" for foreign workers in Kuwait, which expats and their employers would contribute to through various transactions.

The fund would be used to cover airfare for deportations, unpaid wages and "blood money" in case a foreign worker dies or sustains a permanent injury on the job.

Money for the "solidarity fund" would be collected through fees such as a 5 Kuwaiti dinar ($16) "solidarity fee" paid by workers upon receiving their residency visas.

While the bill aims to deport around 360,000 migrant workers in the short term, "many more" deportations are expected in the future.

Foreigners account for nearly 3.4 million of Kuwait's 4.8 million population. They make up around 70 percent of the country's workforce, with 29 percent working in domestic roles, such as domestic workers and drivers.

Kuwait has been slowly working to replace foreigners with nationals in the workforce. By the end of 2019, only 19 percent of Kuwaitis were working in the private sector.

Kuwait, like other Gulf Arab states, relies on a vast population of foreign workers to fill roles ranging from domestic help, construction work, to white-collar jobs.

Some 35 million foreign workers are employed in the six GCC states of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, as well as Jordan and Lebanon, according to UN figures.

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