Stock Kuwait expats workers
Expatriates wait in line to be tested at a makeshift COVID-19 testing centre in Mishref in a file photo. Foreigners make up nearly 3.4 million of Kuwait’s total population of 4.6 million. Image Credit: Reuters

Cairo: A Kuwaiti government agency has invalidated a controversial decision banning expatriates above 60 years who hold no university degree from renewing their work permits, local media reported.

The Legal Advice and Legislation Department said the decision, issued by the Public Authority of Manpower (PAM) in August last year, had no legal basis.

The department, an affiliate of the council of ministers, said the ban had been issued by the PAM director-general without authorisation.

The ban, which went into effect earlier this year, triggered an outcry among rights activists, who argued that it affects thousands of expatriates and their families who long lived in Kuwait.

The ban was seen as an attempt to reduce numbers of migrant workers who account for majority of Kuwait’s population.

In July, the PAM issued another decision allowing expatriates above the age of 60 to renew their residency permits in return for paying annual fees of KD2,000. This move also sparked an outcry and unleashed a campaign by activists demanding cancellation of the restrictions.

Many people took to social media to criticise the decision calling it “irrational” and “illogical”.

Now the minister of commerce in his capacity as the PAM board chairman will have to make an official decision revoking the ban on the expatriates above 60, lawyer Hussein Al Abdullah told Al Rai newspaper.

“This ban is illegal and was issued outside jurisdiction as the memorandum of the Legal Advice and Legislation Department has concluded,” he added.

According to the lawyer, the revocation of the ban allows expats, who left Kuwait because of it, will have the right to return to the country after getting new work permits “now that the legal obstacle to them is over”.

Expatriates, who hold no university degree are estimated at over 80,000 in Kuwait.

Foreigners make up nearly 3.4 million of Kuwait’s total population of 4.6 million.

The Gulf country has in recent months sought to redress its demographic imbalance amid fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.