Foreigners make up nearly 3.4 million of Kuwait’s total population of 4.6 million. Image Credit: Supplied

Cairo: New rules set by a Kuwaiti government agency allowing expatriates above 60 who have no university degree to renew their work permits have drawn criticism from some legal experts in the country.

The rules were unveiled on Thursday, officially replacing a disputed ban on renewal for this category of expatriates. However, the new rules levy on those expatriates an annual fee of KD500 and mandatory health insurance costing up to KD1,200, according to Kuwaiti media.

Some Kuwaiti legal experts have described the latest regulations as unconstitutional and a violation of the country’s human rights obligations.

“The decree has a constitutional flaw for incorporating unjustified discrimination among expatriates who hold a university degree and those who don’t,” said Fawaz Al Jadai, a law professor at the Kuwait University. “This breaches Article 7 in the constitution that provides for justice, freedom and equality as pillars of society, and Article 29 that establishes equality among people in human dignity,” he told Al Anba newspaper.

“If the final version of the decree is adopted as it was announced, then it constitutes a glaring breach of Article 7 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that stresses equality before the law and prohibits any form of discrimination,” Khalid Al Yaqut, a professor of international law and human rights said.

Kuwait, he added, has endorsed this declaration. “The decree also violates local laws. It is a flawed decree discriminating among people on age grounds,” he added.

“It is necessary to reconsider it, especially as a large number of the targeted expatriates cannot afford paying high fees. Their children and grandchildren are living in Kuwait. Imposing extra fees on this category alone is an ill-conceived decision. Such a decision should not be made on the pretext of easing pressure on the health sector or reducing the numbers of expatriates. There are other ways that are more effective and respectful of law than this,” Al Yaqut added.

Last month, the Kuwaiti Legal Advice and Legislation Department invalidated a controversial ban on employing expatriates above 60, saying it had no legal basis.

The department, a Cabinet affiliate, said that the ban had been issued by the Public Authority of Manpower (PAM) director-general without authorisation.

The PAM board met Thursday under chairmanship of Minister of Trade and Industry Abdullah Al Salman and approved revocation of the ban.

The board also endorsed a new decree allowing renewal of work permits for expatriates above 60 in return for an annual fee of KD500 and mandatory health insurance, the minister said, according to Al Rai newspaper.

Children of those expatriates will not be allowed to enroll in public schools.

Some categories of expatriates above 60 will be exempted from paying the renewal fees, according to the official. They are children of Kuwaiti women and their husbands, holders of the Palestinian nationality, and those born in Kuwait.

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