Kuwait’s Ministry of Interior (MOI) has recently extended the grace period for migrants with irregular status to regularise their stay or leave Kuwait without being referred to the investigation authorities or be blacklisted from Kuwait, provided that they pay fines. The grace period was originally set to end on 31 January and will now end on 2 March 2021.
The (MOI)’s statement acknowledges the exceptional circumstances caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, which resulted in travel restrictions, suspension of businesses in many sectors and the closure of the Public Authority for Manpower for a period of more than two weeks in January.
Nonetheless, the MOI has continued arresting irregular migrant workers during the grace period. On the same day the extension was announced, authorities arrested 46 irregular migrant workers in Farwaniya and Jleeb.
According to Al-Rai news, citing an MOI source, the current number of migrants with irregular status reached a record high of 180,000 in January 2021, a 38% increase from five months ago.
This is the fifth time that Kuwait has extended the grace period since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020. While these extensions have been a lifeline for many migrants, they are only a stop-gap measure that should be replaced with a more comprehensive response to workers' needs. This includes social assistance, protections against wage theft, and greater flexibility in changing employers.