KATHMANDU, April 8: Kuwait is planning a massive crackdown on undocumented workers in a move which is likely to affect thousands of expat workers in what has been seen as the beginning of a series of efforts to reduce migrant workers.
Kuwait is home to a 4.25mn population of which more than a two-thirds are migrants.
Of them, an estimated 70,000 are Nepalis, according to the Nepali authorities. Some believe that the number could be higher as a significant number of Nepali women use informal channels to go to the country.
Arab Times reported that those working illegally in the Gulf kingdom would be deported after they are arrested. The main target of the crackdown would be especially those who have been working without a legal status for over 10 years.
The announcement of the crackdown comes after a blanket amnesty and waver of fines failed to persuade undocumented migrants to leave the country. The efforts to legalize the migrants had also failed to impress enough workers. A worker becomse undocumented if he or she overstays or flee the original sponsor without consent.
Out of an estimated 150,000 undocumented migrant workers, only over 50,000 workers had benefited from the amnesty or legalization scheme introduced by the Ministry of interior last year. A total of 34,452 expat workers had left the country while 20,725 continued to work after changing their legal status.
Kuwait currently hosst an estimated 120,000 undocumented migrants. The exact number of undocumented Nepali migrants remains unknown.
According to the Nepali mission in Kuwait, nearly 3,500 Nepalis, including over 2,000 women migrant workers, had benefited from the amnesty cum legalization program carried out last year.
Kuwait had launched similar amnesty and legalization programs in 2011 and 2016 from which around 4,000 Nepalis had benefited.
Compared to other countries in the Gulf, fewer Nepalis work without a legal status in Kuwait. The country is especially popular among Nepali women working as a housemaid and other jobs. Women migrants make the majority of Nepali workers in the Gulf kingdom.
The new measure comes amid increasing crackdown on expat workers in other Gulf countries. After repeated unsuccessful attempts to bring migrant workers under the purview of laws, Saudi Arabia has been launching a massive crackdown. More than 2.1 million foreigners working in the Sunni kingdom were arrested and deported in a period of a year since November 2017.
Gulf countries are also planning to regulate the hiring of expatriates to create more opportunities for locals. Kuwait hopes to cut 1.5 million migrant jobs in the next seven years.