Kuwait to reduce expats with new residency law within months: Officials

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Kuwait will reduce the number of foreign expatriates living in the country within months through an updated residency law, according to the Interior Minister Anas al-Saleh speaking to the official Kuwait Television.

Kuwait has made previous attempts to reduce the number of foreign nationals in the country, which is currently estimated to be around 70 percent, but public discussion has recentered on the issue in the wake of the lockdown enforced by the coronavirus pandemic.

Read the latest updates in our dedicated coronavirus section.

The minister said that the government has a complete draft law that will “upgrade the residency law” to reduce the number of foreign nationals in the country, reported Kuwait Times.

Assembly Speaker Marzouq al-Ghanem said that the country would move to a focus on so-called “skilled” migrants rather than laborers, suggesting that the 1.3 million expats who “are either illiterate or can merely read and write” were not the priority, according to Kuwait Times.

Read more: Kuwait’s Prime Minister vows to slash migrant population, correct expat ‘imbalance’

The new draft law would also put a limit on the number of expats that businesses can recruit each year and include regulations based on their skills, he added.

Kuwait Times reported Ghanem as saying that Kuwait’s parliament would aim to complete the legislation by October, before November elections.

Read more: GCC to witness exit of expatriate workers due to coronavirus: Experts

Kuwait attitudes to migrants under scrutiny

Attitudes toward migrants in Kuwait have come under scrutiny in the wake of the global Black Lives Matter movement. In April, Kuwaiti actress Hayat al-Fahad caused uproar on social media after she called for a ban on expatriates amid the coronavirus outbreak in Kuwait.

Critics branded her racist, with many commentators suggesting that visa traders – people who make large profits from selling visas to unemployed migrants despite regulations – should be the focus of criticism, not migrants themselves.

“Today, the real problem is not the resident,” Kuwaiti parliamentarian Omar al-Tabtabai told press at the time.

“It is the person who brought the resident, and manipulated the resident, and let him live on the streets, and takes money from him, every month, every year,” he added.

Read more:

Coronavirus: Kuwait COVID-19 infections near 50,000 with 638 new cases

Coronavirus: Kuwaitis call on govt to crack down on visa merchants amid lockdown

‘I did not say anything wrong:’ Kuwaiti actress after COVID-19 expat ban comments

Al Arabiya English's Tamara Abueish contributed to this report.