The Kuwait government has declared an amnesty for irregular migrants effective Jan 29 to Feb 22.
As thousands of workers from a single company – Kharafi National – have been left stranded, this move comes as a relief to those who wish to leave immediately. But it also gives a free pass to the company, who no longer needs to take care of the repatriation of workers.
As per the official order, those with expired visas and no other travel bans can directly proceed to exit the country without any official approvals.
Those who do face ‘administrative or legal obstacles’ will have to go to the immigration department for a solution, to either exit or regularise their status in the country.
Those who wish to regularise their status will have to meet certain requirements and pay due penalties.
Those who avail the amnesty can return to Kuwait on a fresh visa and contract.
The order also mentions that those who fail to leave during the grace period will be punished as per the law, will not be allowed to apply for residency permits, and will be deported and not allowed to return to Kuwait.
The amnesty’s terms and timing echoes that of Saudi, which was implemented as tens of thousands of stranded workers demanded their dues and rights. By declaring an amnesty, Saudi forced wronged workers to either leave the country or stay and be criminalised. Those wishing to change employers and remain in the country had to forfeit claims to backpay.
GCC states declare amnesty periodically, and none attempt to hold accountable erring employers during the process.