Kuwait deported 29,000 migrants in 2016 – and the parliament wants to deport more

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Jan 15 2017

Kuwait’s Ministry of Interior Affairs announced that at least 29,000 expats were deported in 2016 - about 80 persons a day. This is a meaningful increase from the 25,000 deported in 2015. A Ministry official cast these statistics in a positive light, claiming that they “show undoubtedly that we have made deportation processes much faster.” Deportees were accused of violating residency and labor or committing crimes, particularly traffic violations. In the past two years, Kuwait has deported migrants for a range of minor offenses, including barbecuing in parks and joining protests. Once, the Minister of Interior himself boasted about deporting an Indian driver “on the spot” after seeing him commit a traffic violation.

The same official claims that prisoners only spend a maximum of a week in deportation prison, and some as little as three days. According to authorities, it only takes a week to finalize papers and obtain a return ticket, and the process is expedited when sponsors cooperate. Kuwait has long been criticized for its overcrammed prisons,  particularly during its professed “campaign on illegal workers” in 2013.  Many migrants reported they were unjustly deported because policemen ignored their explanations or their sponsors could not be bothered to bring in the papers could release them. Authorities denied media reports of poor detention conditions and indefinite waiting periods.

Though Kuwait's newest parliament has been celebrated as a "return of the opposition,"  policies towards expats are not likely to improve. Kuwait's parliament has rarely shown concern for the rights and well-being of migrants, and in its latest session on expats has proposed the deportation of 100,000 expats every year “to tackle the issue of demographic imbalance.” Opposition members claim that “security, social, and economic concerns” necessitate mass deportation.  MPs argue the deportation of “illegal workers” will decrease the crime rate. They are concerned that some migrant communities are “too big.” MP Walid al-Tabtabai said “we need to become 50% of the population within the coming 10 years.” He added that “this means we have to deport 100,000 expats every year, this way it will not harm the labor market.” He suggested that quotas be determined by nationality. Another MP, Adil al-Damkhi, who also heads the parliament’s Human Rights committee, agreed with his colleague. He added that Kuwait should “activate anti-trafficking laws to fight those trading with working visas as they are the real reason behind this problem.”

The Minister of Labor, Hind al-Subaih, does not seem to disagree with the parliament. Though she has recently distanced herself from the “100,000 deportations a year” figure, she has spoken of this “demographic imbalance” many times. Al-Subaih proposes a 15 years plan to bring about a demographic change, while MPs believe it should only take 5 to 10.

 

Advancing the rights of migrant workers throughout the Middle East