Kuwait is set to review expired residency permits of thousands of expatriates currently outside the country due to COVID-19. Image Credit: Supplied

Kuwait City: Kuwait’s Ministry of Interior is set to review expired residency permits of 70,000 expatriates who are currently abroad since the COVID-19 pandemic began in early March.

The review process will begin next week and the Ministry of Interior will decide who will be allowed to return to Kuwait, according to the daily Al Qabas.

Senior officials within the Ministry of Interior will review the recommendations carefully. Those who will be allowed to return will enter with a visit visa and then have their residencies transferred to their previous employer.

Although a final decision has not been made, the study will recommend that 3 groups of people not be allowed to return to the country. The groups are: those over 60, those with permits from fake companies, and marginal workers, otherwise known as day to day workers.

As for domestic workers, it will depend on their age and security background. Those above the age of 60 will unlikely be able to return.

The study is also looking into residency permits of family members and spouses. A source told Al Qabas that as many people spend most of their time abroad and enter Kuwait before their 6-month visa ends, to keep their residency permits, they most likely will not be allowed to renew their residency permits again.

Fate of expats

Expats make up 70 per cent of the population in Kuwait, totalling around 3.4 million compared to the 1.4 Kuwaiti population. In recent weeks, there has been discussion regarding the demographic imbalance in Kuwait, as expats make up the majority of the population.

A rise in anti-expat rhetoric has begun since the beginning of the pandemic with various MPs to social media influencers calling for a change in demographic imbalance.

Last month, the prime minister, Sheikh Sabah Al Khalid Al Sabah, proposed reducing the percentage of expats from 70 to 30 per cent.

In addition, a few weeks ago the legislative committee of the National Assembly deemed an expat quota bill constitutional. The bill has not been proposed yet, but it has been adopted by some MPs. If the bill were to be passed, around 800,000 Indians could be forced to leave Kuwait.

Illegal permit holders

The Ministry of Interior has been working towards addressing the demographic imbalance by first targeting illegal permit holders. The arrest of Assistant Undersecretary of the Ministry of Interior, General Sheikh Mazen Al Jarrah, in relation to the Bangladeshi MP case, has shed light on the issue of illegal permit trading. Mohammed Shahid Islam, the Bangladeshi MP, is accused of human trafficking, money laundering and bribery. Al Jarrah has been accused of accepted bribes from Islam in exchange for fast-tracking translations for the MP’s business dealings in Kuwait.

Islam has four companies in Kuwait, related to cleaning and labour services. According to a report by Al Qabas, 20,000 Bangladeshi workers were brought to Kuwait by Islam, in exchange for more than 50 million Kuwaiti dinars (Dh596 million).

There are approximately 90,000 non-permit holders residing in Kuwait. The Ministry of Interior initiated an amnesty plan back in April, which led to the departure of 26,000 expats within 2 months. The amnesty plan granted non-permit holders a chance to leave the country without any penalty or fine.