Manama: The proposal by a Kuwaiti lawmaker to reduce the number of expatriates in the country by more than 1.3 million in five years has touched off a maelstrom across the parliament.

MP Abdullah Al Tamimi on Wednesday triggered the heated debate when he said that the country’s demographic balance required imposing a five-year cap and asking 20 per cent of the foreigners to leave Kuwait every year.

“There is an urgent need to adjust the demographic balance in the country,” the lawmaker said.

“We cannot accept that the number of foreigners is higher than that of Kuwaiti citizens in their own country. Since there 1.2 million Kuwaitis, then the number of expatriates in the country should not exceed that figure.

"This means that 1,350,000 foreigners have to leave the country within the next five years. This means that 20 per cent of this figure have to leave the country every year to reach the demographic balance needed in Kuwait,” he said, quoted by local daily Al Rai on Saturday.

According to official January figures, Kuwaitis with 1,242,490 nationals make up slightly less than one third (31.3 per cent) of the total population of 3,965,022 people.

Foreigners from Asian countries at 1,499,929 people make up 37.8 per cent of the total population.

Under the proposal by Al Tamimi, no foreign community should make up more than 25 per cent of the total number of expatriates.

“This is very crucial for security, economic and social reasons and purposes,” he said.

Residency cap

Other MPs reportedly welcomed the proposal and said that it should also include imposing five-year residency cap on some nationalities, mainly Americans and Europeans.

However, MP Khalil Abdullah said that the exception could not be tolerated.

“Why should the Americans and Europeans be exempted?’” he asked. “The rule should be allowed to all, without exception,” he said.

Hamad Al Harshani, a lawmaker, said that he opposed imposing the five-year cap.

“It does not make sense because there are expatriates whose experience and contributions are truly needed and the state is genuinely benefiting from them,” he said, quoted by Al Rai.

MP Yagoob Al Sayegh attributed the call by lawmakers to limit the number of foreigners in Kuwait to their concerns about the demographic composition of the country.

“I myself had put in a proposal to address this situation,” he said. “They are all personal efforts to find solutions, but we do not have an expert opinion that looks at the situation from various angles,” he said.

Arab communities make up 27.9 per cent of Kuwait’s foreign population with 1,106,605 Arabs, including 391,578 women and 715,027 men.

Kuwait is also home to 76,698 Africans, mainly women with 68,346, while men are 8,352.

European men slightly outnumber women, 7,590 to 7,051. The number of expatriates from North America is 21,512, including 8,681 women and 12,840 men.

There are 1,706 Australians, 777 women and 929 men, living in Kuwait by the end of the year.

Expatriates from South America have the lowest figure with 1,431 people, made up of 807 men and 625 women.