Union claims plan to deport 1m expats has led to higher labour costs and more visa trafficking
The Kuwait government’s decision to deport 100,000 expatriate workers per year has led to soaring recruitment costs and increases in visa trafficking, according to a labour union.
In March this year the country’s labour minister said Thekra Al-Rasheedi said that the Gulf state would seek to deport 1m overseas residents between now and 2023 in order to readdress Kuwait’s demographic balance. Approximately 2.6m of the Gulf state’s total 3.8m population are non-Kuwaiti.
The plan has been criticised by a prominent workers’ union. "The state is looking to construct mega projects which require thousands of technical labour forces; an important asset which will be in short supply should the government go ahead with the annual deportation plan," said Abdurrahman Al-Ghanim, President of the Expatriate Labour Forces Office in the Kuwait Trade Union Federation.
Precise details of how Kuwait’s plans to implement the proposal have yet to be disclosed, but Al-Ghanim said that rather than targeting expat workers, the government should instead seek to close loopholes in the country’s sponsorship system that he claimed led to people trafficking.
"Cancelling the sponsorship system is the only solution for the country's demographic imbalance problem besides stopping visa trafficking," Al-Ghanim said. He added that the Kuwait’s sponsorship, or ‘kafala’, scheme allows traffickers to create work permits in the name of fake companies, which are then sold onto workers.
As well as taking measures to limit expat workers, Kuwait’s government has also recently pushed ahead with other punitive policies against overseas nationals in the country, including scrapping of some subsidies and segregated healthcare.