By Shane McGinley
The move was introduced in a bid to curb the number of expatriate workers
Kuwait has lifted its five-month ban on transferring commercial visit visas to working permits, which was introduced in a bid to clamp down on the increase in expatriate workers in the Gulf State, according to a local report.
Under the new rules, academically qualified expatriate workers will be allowed to apply for permits, while low skilled workers will still be subject to approval by a special committee, a Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour (MSAL) official told The Kuwait Times newspaper.
The ministerial source was also quoted as saying the special committee would also look at adding more regulations “to ensure that human trafficking is eliminated.” The new regulations will “guarantee that expatriates are only hired in places that desperately require their services,” the source added.
Introduced on Sept 1, the ban was due to be lifted on Jan 1 but was delayed until after Thursday’s elections. The ban had been designed to curb the imbalance between locals and expatriate workers and the suspension will be lifted once new policies and rules have been decided upon.
“It is important to realise across the GCC states there is a national security concern about expat labour,” said Theodore Karasik, director of research at Dubai’s Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis.
“Kuwait is in a very interesting situation because of what is going on in Syria and the Arab Spring. Seeing what happened in Bahrain, they don’t want that happening in their own country.
“We have seen a number of attempts by the GCC states to alter their visa systems on very short notice. Many times this is done because of security, but also because of seeking new methods to halt the flow of particular individuals in and out of countries,” he added.
A number of Gulf states have tightened their border security in the wake of the Arab Spring revolts that toppled rulers in Tunisia and Egypt, and caused widespread unrest in Bahrain.
Kuwait in May 2011 barred nationals from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan and Afghanistan from entering the country over fears political instability in those nations could pose a risk to its security.
Bahrain’s flag carrier Gulf Air also suspended flights to Lebanon, Iran and Iraq in March at the height of its uprising, after what was described as “irresponsible comments” by the countries.
The Gulf state has repeatedly spoken out against “blatant Iranian meddling”, which led to the expulsion of Iran’s charge d'affaires in March.
Qatar last year attempted to scrap its visa-on-arrival facility for residents of 33 countries, including the UK and US, but later rejected the plan after appeals for the affected states.