In a rare gesture, the Kuwait government has said it would not imprison or penalise more than 24,000 illegal Indian workers if they report to the interior ministry for deportation or transfer of job visas.
“We are lenient towards Indian workers but have asked them to strictly follow the rules and regulations. The immigration department is ready to help them in the deportation process,” Maj Gen Talal Ibrahim Marafie, who heads the department, told a group of Indian journalists.
He said this was being done “in view of good and strong ties with India”.
There are around one million Indian workers in Kuwait, who contribute immensely to the development of the country.
On the drop in oil revenue, Marafie said this has not impacted recruitment. More than 50,000 Indians have been recruited this year, he noted.
Marafie said there were multiple reasons for the overstays. In most cases, workers leave their sponsors and work for other companies for financial benefits. There are also cases where the sponsor is abroad and when visas expire, there is no one to help the workers get their travel documents legalised.
Some sponsors retain the passports of workers. Such workers leave their sponsors for monetary benefits and better jobs.
Marafie said the government is keen to help illegal workers if they report to “us”.
The immigration department will make necessary arrangements for their deportation. The workers have to pay a small amount as a penalty, but in most cases, this has been waived.
However, Marafie made it clear that if any of the workers had indulged in malpractices, they would not be spared.
He said 2,018 illegal Indian workers had already been helped to leave Kuwait without any penalty.
As for the non-payment of dues to workers, he said the government attached great importance to this critical issue.
Senior interior ministry official Mohammed Ajami said thousands of such cases had been resolved. The ministry offers legal assistance to workers to fight their cases in court.
The verdict has to be given within a month’s time so that the workers don’t suffer any delay. The government has formed a committee of lawyers to help foreign workers in settling their dues.
Ajami said the government has proposed certain changes to labour laws under which workers will have the right to retain their passports and travel documents. Moreover, sponsors will be made responsible for paying dues within one month or face legal action.