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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.

 

KUWAIT: Kuwaiti astronomer Dr Saleh Al-Ojairi said that in view of the cold weather in many neighboring countries, temperatures were expected to drop to zero in outlying areas at the dawn on Sunday and between 0-3 C in urban areas. He based his predictions on the approach of frigid North Siberian winds. Ojairi also predicted rain showers in various areas on Saturday right before the drop in temperature. Meanwhile, assistant undersecretary for public education at the Education Ministry Khaled Al- Rasheed informed all educational area directors to cancel the morning assemblies on cold days. He also stressed the need to authorize school directors to decide on holding morning assemblies on cold days. —Al-Watan

 

KUWAIT: If you drive your car over a deep pothole, break the chassis and end up with a large bill from the mechanic, what are your options in Kuwait? Many individuals wonder what could be done in such instances and who is to be blamed for road repairs and damage to cars. Attorney Mubarak Mijzea argues that it is possible to seek compensation from the government if a bad road causes damage to a vehicle or injures a person. The Ministry of Public Works (MPW) is the institution in charge of road conditions and safety in Kuwait.

According to the Kuwaiti civil law, any person who was subject to harm has the right to be compensated, Mijzea said, adding that in order to file a case, three criteria need to exist – the damage, fault and the resulting relation between them. “For instance, the victim should prove that the vehicle was damaged, that the ministry didn’t do their duty to fix the damage to the road, and finally that this road lies under the responsibility of the MPW,” he explained.

It’s not only vehicles that can be subject to harm as a result of damaged roads. According to the attorney, one of the cases he recently counseled involved parents who sued the MPW for not maintaining the roads properly and leaving a manhole uncovered. Their young son fell in this manhole and broke his leg in addition to sustaining other injuries. “The MPW claimed that the cover of the manhole was stolen, and that there was a construction project in that area, so we expanded the case to include the contractor and the owner of the company working on this project.

We won the case and the family was compensated,” stressed Mijzea. Filing cases against the MPW is not common because not all drivers file a case against the ministry and they don’t like to go through a long procedure, especially when the damage is not very serious or expensive. “Most people would rather fix their car instead of running after the compensation which is not high anyway. In fact, filing a case against the MPW is the same as filing a case against the Ministry of Health. For instance, when a patient is harmed due to a medical mistake, he sues the ministry which is responsible for the hospital,” he said, adding that the same system applies to all the ministries.

The responsibility for various road problems is shared between different institutions. “Sometimes different authorities work on roads such as the Ministry of Communication, Municipality, telecommunication companies or contractors working on various projects and roads. So if the harmed person complains and files a case, he has to also include these other institutions who carry part of the responsibility,” he noted. “The harmed individual should first complain at the police station to prove the harm and damage.

Then when filing a case at the court, an expert or an engineer from the court will go within a week or two to check the location and make a report to be added to the file,” concluded Mijzea. A source from the MPW who wished to stay anonymous noted that the MPW is dealing with all complaints and tries to fix such problems in a timely manner. “We have a hotline (150) where people can call and complain about any road problems. Statistics have been published in the local press showing the amount of complaints we have dealt with. MPW also ranked first out of other institutions in dealing and responding to public complaints,” he explained

By Nawara Fattahova

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