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Thu 16 Jan 2014 09:08 AM

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Kuwait opens a massive can of worms

Visa fraud on a giant scale could be its biggest challenge since the Gulf War, says Shane McGinley

Kuwait opens a massive can of worms
Shane McGinley

Kuwait celebrated its golden jubilee in 2012 with a massive fireworks display which was only recently overtaken by Dubai’s New Year’s Eve record-breaking extravaganza.

While the Gulf state has avoided the sort of Arab Spring violence which has beset Bahrain, Egypt and parts of Oman, it has struggled to gain real long-term political stability. The government and parliament have fallen in and out of power and political scandals have been rife.

However, the Kuwait has now been beset with a scandal that could be its biggest challenge since the Gulf War in the 1990s.

More than 40,000 foreign workers in Kuwait have been stripped of their visas after authorities claimed they were issued by illegal visa traders. Investigations found about 1000 companies illegally operating as visa distributors. It is estimated there are about 100,000 workers illegally resident in the country.

While 700 people were charged with visa trading last summer, a new media report has revealed that the scandal goes all the way to the top and at least six members of the ruling Al Sabah family are reportedly under investigation for being involved in the scam.

Arabic daily Al Rai even claimed at least one royal was accused of bagging KD100,000 ($354,007) a month from issuing illegal visas.

In a country where two-thirds of the population are foreign workers, the government has said it wants to reduce the expat numbers from 2m to 1m by 2023. The real question now is what to do with these expats caught up in the latest massive fraud; with some parliamentarians saying around 12,000 had been “victims” of the scams.

It could be that the government will use this as a way to fast track its 2023 goal to reduce numbers, but it would be fairer if an amnesty was first launched and expats who believe they might be impacted can come forward and go through the official process and gain legitimate status.

A similar crackdown in Saudi Arabia has surely cost Riyadh millions to roll out, something Kuwait can’t afford at a time when its budget surplus narrowed in the first six months of its fiscal year as spending soared over 50 percent.

This was partly thanks to increased outlays on public sector wages, while oil revenues fell, figures from the Finance Ministry showed.

At the same time, a Kuwaiti MP is pushing for the government to approve legislation that would give citizenship to a compulsory number of stateless people each year as it attempts to reduce the high number of bedouins in the country.

It seems residency and statehood is going to become a hot topic for Kuwait this year and it is time for the parliament to put political squabbles aside and, for the sake for the country’s stability, look for a solution to this problem before it spirals out of control.

Jay 5 years ago

Yes big trouble ahead now will these people get their entitlement to indemnity etc as many of the big companies are not paying to law so here is the next investigation for you
I know of 3 or 4 major employers who don't pay as per labor law so let's start this discussion I have documentary evidence of this so fight for your rights or will this be another scandals of this currupt country

Saba Khaled 5 years ago

Why isn't the Kuwaiti government passing the law for Kuwaiti mothers to pass there citizenship to there children's . they should follow the example of UAE and Bahrain !

RAH 5 years ago

The corruption lies with the few people who undertook visa trading and for the laborer who went ahead and bought these visas. The corruption is not the country itself where many of us (who form this State) have not engaged in such illegal visa issuing.

If you feel for these poor laborers then why not submit your evidence to a lawyer who will take up the matter with the courts? The country is trying to prosecute them and your evidence would be useful. Or is it just hot air and idiotic talk you have to provide to the pages of the Internet?

RAH 5 years ago

Provide the UAE and Bahrain laws that specifically states that mothers can pass their citizenship to their children and Kuwait will gladly follow suit.

You seem just lost and desperate for any citizenship Saba beyond your current Syrian one.

vincent 5 years ago

"Dear" RAH,

Not the first time I do react while I read your comments and as usual my first thoughts are " what an humanist", such capacity for "compassion" toward those in difficulty . . . so kind of you.
According to UN 50% of the Syrian population is in urgent need for basic food supply and like Syrian in an almost 3 years of civil war.
I was wondering same "anger" feelings for deported population from Palestine ? Not our concern, isn't it ?

Actually, one more time, I find your comments uselessly offensive against Saba Khaled, Syrian citizen or not as you seem to assume and at the same time offensive toward a community.
Thank you RAH for letting me feel I'm alive and capable of compassion contrary to you and your demeaning comments.

Thoughtful 5 years ago

@RAH, I am eager to believe that you provide exactly what you have identified in your rant to these pages on the internet?

Kaptain Mirza 5 years ago

No it will not spiral out of control.