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KSHR Slams ‘Absconding’ reports – No transfer of commercial visit visas

KUWAIT: The Kuwait Society for Human Rights (KSHR) yesterday strongly condemned the so-called "absconding" reports being filed by businessmen against their expatriate workers, saying the issue is being misused to exploit workers. Head of the Public Authority for Manpower Jamal Al-Dossari meanwhile announced that there are absconding reports against 12,000 expatriate workers, adding that a government committee has been set up to study the entire issue.

Under existing laws, businessmen and establishments have the right to report to the police that any of their expatriate workers has left work without permission and according is declared "absconding". Dossari said that the residence permit of the worker is considered "cancelled" immediately after the absconding report is filed. The issue has opened the door for exploitation by businessmen, which reached the degree of blackmail against payment of their financial rights, according to a statement by KSHR.

"Absconding reports, especially malicious ones, have become like a sword hanging over the heads of expatriate workers and has become a means being misused by some (businessmen) to deny workers from receiving their financial dues," the society said. It said that procedures being followed by the Manpower Authority do not provide any guarantees to protect expatriate workers. The society said it has monitored many cases of exploitation against workers even after being cleared by the labor departments to transfer their residence but were prevented after their employers who filed an absconding report which cannot be challenged. As a result, workers are arrested and deported.

"These procedures involve a clear abuse of workers' rights and boost the power of visa merchants, besides distorting the reputation of Kuwait and its commitments to protect emigrant workers," the society said. The society urged the ministers of interior and social affairs and labor to order a revision in the issue of absconding workers and to reactivate the dispute settlement committee that looks into absconding reports and appoint a member of civil societies in the committee.

Speaking at a press conference yesterday, Dossari also said that bringing expatriate workers to Kuwait would be subject to quotas starting 2015, when specific ratios would be set per sector and taken into consideration when issuing work permits for laborers brought from abroad. He added that a certain ratio would also be allowed per company with the ultimate goal of controlling Kuwait's demography.

Dossari said that a committee headed by Minister of Social Affairs and Labor and Planning and the Chairwoman of the manpower authority Hind Al-Subaih had been formed to study Kuwait's demography, local market needs and means to encourage more citizens work for the private sector. "The committee is currently studying local market needs according to statistics about those joining it over the past five years through commercial visit visa transfers, domestic labor transfers and exempted sectors like fishing, shepherding and agriculture," he explained, pointing out that these numbers were being compared to those who had left Kuwait for good or had died.

Dossari stressed that an agreement had been made with the interior ministry to stop transferring domestic labor visas to work visas once the current grace period is over. He added that commercial visit visa transfers would also be halted, except of those related to mega government projects. "Those working on government projects will only be allowed to transfer visas to another government project with the same sponsor," he underlined.

On the authority's refusal to transfer visas without sponsors' approval although applicants had worked for three years for the same sponsor as per a relevant ministerial decision, Dossari said that such transfers would only be made if the work contracts have expired.

By B Izzak and A Saleh

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This article was published on 09/11/2014