KUWAIT: Labor Relations Department at Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor relents on its basic duties and responsibility to resolve pending disputes and problems between expatriate workers and their employers in private sector, and in so doing, the workers are made easy prey to exploit, reports Al- Seyassah daily.
A reliable source was quoted as saying the ministry for the first-time discovered that its labor relations (arbitration) departments had presented requests to stop entertaining labor complaints. He noted the ministry went on to approve the request, which covered complaints from expatriate workers whose employers’ files have been suspended.
Worst of all, the ministry directs the concerned workers back to the Inspection Department where suspension stickers are placed on their employers’ files, knowing well that employers only have the right to enter the office, the source noted. He also said the idea of putting suspension stickers on the files to some extent emanated from the employers due to disagreements with their workers.
The implication is that Labor Department now puts the cart before the horse by restraining the workers who become easy prey to wicked employers. Also, the ministry has been rejecting applications for the transfer of visa from expatriate workers of governmental and non-governmental projects until they have completed the three years legal period with their sponsors.
The source affirmed, “Refusal of the ministry to approve applications from workers in government project who fulfill the conditions clearly violates ministerial decisions 200/2013 and 213/2011.”
KUWAIT: The Education Ministry stopped signing contracts abroad to cover the shortage of teachers in certain specialties. The ministry will rely on the Basic Education College and the Education College at Kuwait University, as well as local contracts with those residing in Kuwait, as well as bedoons. Education sources said the Education Ministry decided this year to stop foreign contracts to meet a shortage of teachers, adding that the public education sector was instructed to present an estimation of its needs in the form of specialized human resources for the next school year. The sources said the most notable required specialties for next year are mathematics, chemistry, biology, geology and physical education.
Meanwhile, the Education and Health Ministry agreed to change the type of meals given to kindergarten and primary students as new tenders are put out next year. Sources said the joint committee from the two ministries held a meeting last week to discuss the type of meals that are given to students, as recommendations indicated they are not suitable for the students’ age group.
They said that the health ministry indicated that some types of food have high percentage of fat. Meanwhile, Al-Watan daily said the students’ training project on TOEFL for the 11th and 12th grades has returned, as the Education Ministry said in a surprise circulation for the secondary stage students that it was necessary to resume the training program to prepare students for the test starting from the second period of the 2013/2014 school year at a rate of two classes per week. Educational sources said that it is difficult to implement the project because teachers are not qualified and cannot do it, so schools will face difficulty in implementing the instructions.
KUWAIT: Kuwait may grant an amnesty to illegal expatriates in early 2014 – the first time in three years – and just a few months after a similar amnesty in neighboring Saudi Arabia. Under the amnesty period, expatriates living illegally in Kuwait would be given the option to legalize their status by paying fines or leave the country without having to pay fines or risk being blacklisted. “Senior officials started entertaining the idea of an amnesty period after database records near the end of 2013 showed that there are around 100,000 visa violators in Kuwait,” said Interior Ministry sources quoted by Al-Qabas daily yesterday. The sources spoke on the condition of anonymity since no official statement was released.
No specific details were given on the duration of the amnesty period or when it might begin. Around 42,000 expatriates living illegally in Kuwait benefited from a four-month amnesty period which ended on June 30, 2011, according to the Interior Ministry. “Thirty-four percent of illegal [residents] benefited from the amnesty, including 28,662 who left the country and 12,870 who legalized their status as of June 22, 2011,” said Maj Gen Abdullah Al-Rashid, Assistant Undersecretary at the Interior Ministry, in 2011. The number of illegal expatriates before the 2011 amnesty was estimated at 115,000, and several newspaper reports had suggested that the number dropped to 90,000 by early 2012.
The idea of an amnesty for 2014 was first floated during a meeting at the Citizenship and Passports Department in August. “But an agreement was reached to put the issue on hold until the end of the year,” reported Al-Qabas. Illegal residents are those with expired visas, facing criminal court cases or fugitives as well as those currently detained or reported as absconding.
Many of the fugitive illegals are those who were caught in human trafficking scams. Thousands of expatriates are brought to Kuwait every year with the false promise of a job only to find when they land here no such jobs exists. MP Riyadh Al-Adasani claimed in November that 82,000 companies in Kuwait are guilty of visa trafficking, including 39,000 fake companies (those with nonexistent businesses).
Crackdown on illegals
Since April, thousands of illegal expatriates have been arrested and deported in a widespread police crackdown. The unprecedented campaign triggered anxiety among even legal expatriates with checkpoints and raids common throughout expatriate-populated areas including Salmiya, Jleeb Al-Shuyoukh and Farwaniya among others. No official final numbers of those deported have been released.
Kuwait is home to 2.7 million expatriates, who account for 68 percent of the country’s 3.9 million population. The population rose from nearly 3.7 million by the end of 2011, including 2.5 expatriates. The annual population growth rate in Kuwait is almost 2 percent, according to the CIA World Factbook.
Seeking demographic balance
In a bid to restore greater demographic balance, Minister of Social Affairs and Labor Thekra Al-Rashidi announced a plan in March to deport 100,000 foreigners every year as part of a scheme to cut the country’s expatriate population by one million within a decade. No detailed explanations were given for the mechanism to execute the plan, but the minister did identify expatriates living illegally as the main target.
Demographic imbalance has become a main concern in Kuwait and is often mentioned in debate about the country’s housing problem, traffic crisis, subsidies and underemployment. “A ratio of one Kuwaiti for every three expatriates is threatening Kuwaiti identity, puts Kuwaiti culture and traditions under the risk of vanishing, and pushes citizens to become a minority in their own country,” former MP Adnan Al-Mutawa said during an election campaign in July.
The affairs of expatriates in Kuwait are organized through the sponsorship or ‘kafala’ system, which is often blamed for violations practiced primarily against low-skilled labor forces, and caused the state to fall under pressure from human rights groups in the past few years to abolish it. The Kuwait Trade Union Federation compared hiring under the sponsorship system in a statement earlier this month with slavery by suggesting that it grants employers ‘full control’ over workers.
A new governmental authority passed in the parliament earlier this year is not expected to start operating before the beginning of the new fiscal year on April 1, 2014. The Public Labor Authority would replace the sponsorship system by exclusively handling the affairs of expatriate labor forces including hiring in local companies.
Kuwait is also home to an estimated population of 100,000 stateless Arabs or ‘bedoons’ who live without a nationality and claim citizenship of what they describe as the country of their birth. The Interior Ministry released a statement yesterday in which they warned bedoons against plans to stage a demonstration on Thursday in Taima, which has featured regular protests since 2011.
By Ahmad Jabr
KARACHI: Bangladesh on Tuesday sought an explanation from Pakistan’s envoy in Dhaka regarding a resolution adopted by the Pakistani parliament condemning execution of Jamaat leader Abdul Quader Molla for his involvement in war crimes of 1971.
Bangladesh's foreign ministry, in a statement, said that Molla’s trial and punishment was the country’s internal affair and the resolution adopted by Pakistan’s National Assembly in this regard was uncalled for.
Pakistan’s high commissioner in Dhaka, Mian Afrasiab Mehdi Hashmi Qureshi was summoned to explain the matter in this regard, it said.
The 65 years old Jamaat-e-Islami leader was hanged on Thursday for his involvement in war crimes during Bangladesh’s war of independence from Pakistan in 1971.
The lower house of parliament in Pakistan on Monday blew hot and cold over the execution, ending up with just an expression of “concern” by a divided house at what Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said was “judicial murder.”
The government and its allies as well as the opposition Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI) of Imran Khan tried hard for a show of parliamentary consensus on the 42nd anniversary of “fall of Dhaka” as they supported a resolution proposed by the opposition Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) seeking to condemn the execution of Bangladeshi Jamaat-i-Islami’s Abdul Quader Molla.
But the opposition Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) refused to sign the draft and openly opposed it for different reasons in speeches before the house passed a toned down resolution by voice vote.
Contrary to a mild comment made by the foreign ministry on Friday, Chaudhry Nisar used some tough language in the house, saying Mr Molla’s hanging had “opened old wounds again.”
The original JI draft had wanted the house to “strongly condemn” the hanging, but an amended draft that was moved by a party member from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province, only “expressed concern” of the house over the hanging of Molla for what it called “supporting Pakistan in 1971.”
It urged the Bangladesh government to “not revive the issues of 1971” and “terminate all cases registered against the leaders of Jamaat-i-Islami, Bangladesh, in a spirit of reconciliation.”
Country-wide protests and funeral prayers in absentia were held by the activists and supporters of the JI in Pakistan following the hanging in Dhaka.
Pakistan’s armed forces are alleged to have carried out war crimes in1971 and the Bangladesh government has been seeking a public apology from Pakistan which is yet to abide by the demand of its South Asian neighbour officially.
KUWAIT: The Kuwait Exploration Team carried out a successful mission to Antarctica recently in which the Kuwaiti flag was raised on the South Pole. It was the second adventure of its kind after an expedition to the North Pole last March which started from Iceland through Norway. In their latest expedition, the Kuwaiti team which consisted of EQUATE engineer Abdullah Al-Husainan, Munawer Al- Khatrash, and Abdullah Buqumashah, joined 90 other explorers from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Russia, Germany and other countries, as they embarked from the Argentinean city of Ushuaia on board the Plancius expedition ship.
The Kuwaiti team was named after the late Omar Al-Omar, in memory of the team member who participated in the North Pole expedition and passed away last September before he could participate in the South Pole adventure. “The motivation behind the trip was to send a message of peace, respect and love from Kuwait in the first place, and from the Arab and Islamic worlds in general,” Al- Husainan said in a statement to the press. In addition to the unmatched adventurous experience, the Kuwaiti team return from the trip with a ‘rich bank of information’ received through scientific lectures that experts gave during the expedition.
KUWAIT: Astronomer Saleh Al-Ojairi said that the clouds that covered Kuwait Friday and caused scattered showers in some areas will disperse gradually, before returning with more scattered showers. He said the three coming days will be bitterly cold in desert areas with temperatures reaching one degree Celsius.
He advised people to remain in their homes during these days, and urged seagoers to also stay ashore as waves will be strong.
Meanwhile, cold Shamal (northwesterly) winds are likely to hit the Gulf region in the coming days, causing a “significant” drop in temperatures and could churn waters in the Arabian Gulf. Winds are also likely to blow dust and sand in open inland areas that could reduce visibility.
Kuwait: Investigations are ongoing to determine the circumstances behind the death of an Arab man who has been living illegally in Kuwait since birth, according to his mother. Police and paramedics headed to a house in Jleeb Al-Shuyoukh in response to an emergency call, and pronounced the 22-year-old dead at the scene. His mother who made the emergency call said that she gave birth to her son during the 1990/91 Iraqi invasion period and could not register him or obtain a birth certificate at the time. She confirmed that her son has been living illegally in Kuwait all his life. Detectives obtained the victim’s fingerprints to match them with the security database, as they are waiting for an autopsy report to determine the cause of death.