KUWAIT: More foreign workers came to Kuwait last year compared to 2011, according to official statistics, which show a notable difference between the number of work permits issued and the actual labor forces who entered the local market. According to figures quoted by Al-Jarida yesterday, 138,433 work permits were released in 2012, which have showed an increase by 591 compared to 2011. Meanwhile, they show that the number of new labor forces who came to Kuwait was 92,355, and that 58 percent of the work permits were issued in favor of government contracts and projects. The statistics were made available to the newspaper by Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor sources who requested anonymity because they did not have the permission to reveal the information. Meanwhile, the sources revealed that 644,116 work visas were renewed last year which was up by 86,017 compared to 2011. On the other hand, visa transfer operations in the public sector reached 173,864 last year, down by nearly 12,000 compared to a year before.
The number of visas transferred from the private to the public sector reached 3,958, while the number of visitor’s visas that were transferred to work visas reached around 13,000. Furthermore, the statistics indicate that 7,485 dependency visas were transferred to work visas in the private sector, while 17,540 Article 20 visas given to domestic workers were transferred to Article 18 visas which are issued to private sector employees. According to the statistics, around 67,000 visas for expatriate workers were canceled last year either because of travel or death. In other news, Al-Anba daily reported yesterday that the Civil Service Council was scheduled to approve the new organizational structure for the Manpower Public Authority, which will replace the sponsorship system in handling expatriate labor recruitment duties. The parliament passed a law to establish the authority earlier this year and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor launched efforts to set the body up under its supervision with hopes of starting operations before the year ends. Once that happens, the plan is to have the authority handle private companies’ demand for expatriate labor forces, effectively replacing the sponsorship system that has come under pressure over the past few years. Separately, the Kuwait Trade Union Federation warned in a recent statement that procedures to close companies which violate labor regulations could prove more harmful for workers who would lose their jobs in the process.
Local dailies on Sunday quoted Jamal Al- Dousary, MSAL Undersecretary Assistant for the Labor Sector who said that files of 88 companies are currently under investigations while 14 firms have already been shut down. “Al-Dousary’s statements do not provide explanations regarding the fate of employees of those companies, and even adds to the obscurity of the situation when he later indicated that all visas registered in a company’s file will become void once the company is shut down”, said Abdurrahman Al-Ghanim, Head of the KTUF’s Expatriate Labor Forces Office. He further questioned whether the ministry has taken into account “the legal, economic, social and humanitarian repercussions” of those steps, as well as the fate of “thousands of workers who will effectively become wanted for illegal residence for no mistake of theirs”. And while Al-Ghanim whose statements were published by Al-Qabas yesterday, applauded the ministry’s efforts to fight irregularities in the labor market including visa trafficking, he reiterated demands for scrapping the sponsorship system as “the real solution to the abnormal conditions in the labor market”.
Kuwait has been the subject of criticism from rights groups over the past few years over human rights violations resulting mostly from practices relating to problems in the sponsorship system. For example, the system has loopholes which are exploited by visa traffickers to release work permits for fake companies or nonexistent job openings, and then sell them to unskilled labor forces looking for a chance to work in the oil-rich Gulf region. Once they reach Kuwait, workers in most cases end up with no jobs, resort to accepting hard labor, and often live without valid visas. Kuwait is home to 2.6 million expatriates who make 68 percent of the country’s 3.8 million population, while official state figures indicate that there are nearly 90,000 living illegally in the country. Minister of Social Affairs and Labor Thekra Al- Rashidi announced last March that the government has a ‘demographic balance restoration plan’ which calls for deporting 100,000 foreigners each year as part of a scheme to cut the country’s expatriate population by one million within a decade. No details were since given regarding the mechanism to execute those plans.
KUWAIT: Kuwait is still importing fruits and vegetables from Syria, despite suspicions that they might be contaminated after the chemical attacks in the country. Ala’ Abu Naser from the management of Alforda at the biggest fruit and vegetable market in Sulaibiya said that they haven’t received any instructions from the Ministry of Health to stop importing fruits and vegetables from Syria. “We still have fruits and vegetables coming from Syria and even today, we received a fresh stock.
The inspectors at the Customs Department and at the municipality keep a check on imported food stock to make sure it’s not spoiled and doesn’t pose a health risk,” he told the Kuwait Times yesterday. “In case of chemical contamination of fruits and vegetables, I think they need to take samples to the Ministry of Health lab and have them tested.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is involved and should play a role in banning Syrian products from entering Kuwait. We still don’t have inspectors from the Ministry of Health visiting but they are expected shortly,” added Abu Naser. A source from the Kuwait municipality told an Arabic daily yesterday that the facilities available at the laboratories aren’t good enough to test all the fruits and vegetables which are imported and said that the checking is only “external”. The source also mentioned that other countries also import fruits and vegetables from Syria which are exported to Kuwait and the source of origin will be completely unknown. Saleh Al-Kanderi, a member of the Food Safety Committee noted that the municipality only inspects “visually”.
“We are dealing with the Ministry of Health’s laboratory to examine the food stocks. We are not authorized to ban selling or importing any fruits or vegetables from Syria unless we receive an official letter from the Ministry of Health stating that these products are not suitable for human consumption,” he pointed out. Dr Fahad Al-Anezi, Head of Pediatric department at Jahra Hospital assured people that the fruits and vegetables imported from Syria don’t pose a danger to health upon consumption. “Usually chemical weapons use sarin gas and its effects wear off after some time. Phosphate also tends to weaken after a few days.
These imported products need about 10 days at least to reach Kuwait from Syria by which time, the effects would have disappeared. Even if the consumer is a child, the worst side effect would be diarrhea, vomiting or stomach ache. The residents of the area may be affected by these products but washing the fruits and vegetables will be enough,” he pointed out.
By Nawara Fattahova
KUWAIT: After two years of complete silence, engineering control manager at Kuwait Municipality, Nizar Al-Sayegh astonished everyone by revealing that the railway project had been “delayed and will never take place” because many obstacles blocked its route, like the newly-built ministerial and residential buildings. He also called for more studies on adjusting the project’s route and allocating alternative locations for the concerned ministries and governmental establishments.
Further, Al-Sayegh said that once opened in 2016, Al-Shidadiya University would create a big traffic problem. “Though the university has been provided with 40,000 car parking spots for students, teaching staff members and administrative staff, the issue will arise when they have to get to the university”, he underlined, pointing out that the main road leading to the university was the Sixth Ring Road.
KUWAIT: A teenager was arrested on Thursday, one day after he stole an ambulance outside the Farwaniya Hospital. Investigations revealed that he took a habit of stealing vehicles after seeing the Grand Theft Auto video game series. The first lead found during investigations was a damaged car parked at the hospital’s parking lot, and they discovered after investigation that the vehicle is reported stolen. After checking CCTV tapes and patients’ records, the detectives identified a 16-year-old boy who received treatment on the same day the ambulance was stolen, and he lives in Ardiya where the ambulance was later found.
Police contacted the teenager’s father who confirmed that his son was injured, and agreed to bring him to the police station for questioning. Investigations revealed that the Kuwaiti youngster has a past record of car thefts and that he mostly used the stolen vehicles for reckless driving. The teenager admitted that he drove the damaged vehicle to the Farwaniya hospital after he suffered an injury during an accident he encountered while driving the car after stealing it. After being discharged from the hospital, the teenager spotted the ambulance that was left with the engine running. Instead of taking the car he stole earlier back home, the youngster jumped into the ambulance and drove to Ardiya where he parked it at a place not far from his house and walked home.
Moreover, the teenager admitted that he stole another car later that day to get to his friends, and on his way back he forced a taxi driver out of a cab and stole it too. Police found a number of counterfeit car keys with the teenager; who admitted of using them in stealing cars. Further investigations revealed that the youth was previously arrested on car theft charges, but he was released on a bail in every incident. He was referred to the proper authorities this time to face 13 counts of automobile theft.
KUWAIT: Assistant Undersecretary for Labor Affairs at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor Jamal Al-Dousari has revealed that 142 inspectors of the ministry have been empowered with the judicial power to arrest violators of law.
Meanwhile, he disclosed that the ministry, in coordination with the General Immigration Department, has launched a new method to apprehend employers who violate the law and to refer them to the General Investigation Department.
He explained the new method includes activating block 71, which closes the files of those companies that violate the law and addressing the Ministry of Commerce and Industry to cancel the licenses of those companies. He revealed that inspection campaigns will be held periodically at the oil and industrial sectors in order to organize the labor market.
In addition, Undersecretary of Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor Abdulmohsen Al-Mutairi has announced the launch of online renewals of work permits and automatic transfer of salaries of laborers to the banks.
In a press statement, he explained that approximately 2,672 owners of companies have received user-IDs and passwords and 63,531 work permits have been renewed online so far.
He added the related statistics indicate that the salaries of 300,000 laborers who work for about 14,000 employers have been transferred to local banks.
85 illegals held: The Field Operation Team of Immigration Security Department in coordination with the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor organized a surprise campaign in Salmiya area during which they arrested 85 expatriates.
According to security sources, the campaign was carried out in several cafés and commercial shops in Salem Al-Mubarak Street. Officers arrested 85 individuals who violated the residency law as some had expired residencies, some others were marginal workers while the rest were working under different sponsors.
The arrested individuals were referred to the concerned authorities for necessary legal action against them.
KUWAIT: Immigration officials busted a Bangladeshi gang that issues new passports for Bangladeshis who return to Kuwait after being deported. A gang member and six Bangladeshis who received fake passports were arrested and the officials are on the lookout for the rest. Officials suspected that the gang has a lot of wasta as the confiscated passports were brand new and issued in Kuwait. Immigration detectives noticed that when a Bangladeshi wanted to transfer information from his old passport to the new one, he denied going to the main office to get an iqama.
After verification, it was discovered that there was a difference in the photo though the name and the rest of the information was the same. He was fingerprinted and it was noticed that he had been deported earlier and had re-entered Kuwait illegally.
Upon questioning, he revealed that his friend asked for KD 1,000 to get him a new passport after claiming that he lost his previous passport. He also said that six others were deported and came back to Kuwait with the fake passports. Further investigations are underway.
KUWAIT: Minister of Social Affairs and Labor Thikra Al-Rasheedi has issued the decision to allow domestic workers to transfer their residence to the private labor sector. The decision will be valid for only two months from the date it is published in the official gazette.
The decision stipulates that the domestic worker can transfer his domestic visa to work permit under the same sponsor or one of his first-degree relatives. The worker’s residence must be valid for minimum six months and he should complete three years of service under the sponsorship of his last employer.
The Undersecretary of Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor Abdulmohsen Al-Mutairi explained that the decision is aimed to meet the needs of the local market as well as of those employers who are interested in legally changing the status of their personnel.
Meanwhile, in an unrelated development, Assistant Director General for Development Affairs Engineer Ahmad Al-Manfouhi announced Wednesday that the Kuwait Municipality has activated the automated system for issuance of commercial licenses, adding the system became operational in all municipalities and governorates since last week, reports Al-Qabas daily.
In a press statement, Engineer Al-Manfouhi indicated the automated system is working well and technical team is in place to revise and follow-up responses issued in relation to Ministry of Trade’s inquiries.
He added the system provides more than 100 immediate approvals of licenses, while in the past it took weeks for applications to be completed.
Engineer Al-Manfouhi noted some hitches have been reported by the technical team and they are currently working to resolve them, indicating the negative aspects of the system will be fixed within a short period.
He the system works in an automated manner through a program that relies on special automated number allotted by Public Authority for Civil Information (PACI) where in approval or rejection of application is transmitted directly.
He also said individual attendance is needed in some transactions, especially when the relevant information isn’t entered into the system or when an in which a commercial business is intended to be established is still under planning or study, citing Shuwaikh area, or when the plot in question has recorded old violations that need to be sorted out.
He revealed another development period wherein the system will be linked through entire construction and demolition licenses using automated building numbers, so that all commercial entities will be allotted special numbers by PACI before construction begins, and owners of the building will deal with the Ministry of Trade directly without need for individuals to go to the Municipality.
He explained that all approvals issued through the automated system will be reviewed by Municipality inspectors later to check for irregularities, and if major irregularities are detected, the Municipality will address Ministry of Trade to cancel the license, while the Municipality will deal with in minor cases through its punitive codes.
He expressed appreciation to every concerned authority for efforts exerted to implement the system, saying he hopes the system will meet intended expectation. He is confident that the system will cut short endless circles and give both the citizens and expatriates sense of equality and impartiality.