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Wed 13 Aug 2008 09:01 AM

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Kuwait slaps ban on Ethiopians in HIV scare

Gulf state stops issue of visas to Ethiopians, move criticised as 'collective punishment'.

Kuwait has slapped a ban on Ethiopians entering the Gulf state after three maids from the east African country tested positive for HIV.

Authorities from Monday stopped issuing all types of visas to Ethiopian nationals due to concerns over the medical testing process Ethiopians undergo prior to arriving in Kuwait, Kuwaiti daily Arab Times reported, citing the head of a legal firm that assists distressed workers.

Hashem Majed, managing director of Al-Huqooq International Co, called for a full investigation into the incident, but criticised the blanket ban as "collective punishment" and predicted it will create a serious vacuum in the domestic sector.

"The Kuwaiti embassy should conduct a thorough investigation to ascertain whether any ill-practices were involved in the matter," Majed was quoted as saying.

"In the run-up to Ramadan, the demand for domestic helpers sees a rise. The government should now make alternate arrangements to overcome the shortage of workers," he added.

According to Majed, there are around 14,000 Ethiopians in Kuwait, many of whom work in the domestic sector.

The ban follows the deportation earlier this month of around 1,000 Bangladeshis following violent protests over pay and conditions.