Factors such as slowing economic growth and perceived security concerns in the aftermath of the Arab Spring have triggered a harsh crackdown in Kuwait on expatriate workers, including those from India, other South Asian countries and the Philippines.

Reports indicate that over a 100 Indians who had been arrested under the crackdown and deported have landed in New Delhi. Khaleej Times has reported that over 4,000 Indians were in various jails in Kuwait for reasons not clearly known.

Media reports in Kuwait suggest that the authorities are mounting raids in working class areas with a majority population of blue-collar workers from Asian countries. This has caused many small and medium businesses feel the pinch of labour shortage as their workers have gone into the hiding. Those whose residency and work permits are not in order are liable to deportation.

The daily Kuwait Times reported that the Kuwaiti government suspended issue of new work permits with the aim of slashing expatriate workforce by 100,000 every year for the next 10 years. It has been reported that the government wants to cut the size of foreign workers — currently around two-thirds of the country’s estimated population of 3.8 million — by half over the next three years. The paper also said that some laws under consideration include those imposing restrictions in healthcare services and scrapping of subsidies for services such as water, electricity and gas.

Authorities seem to be in overdrive to achieve their targets, and measures that include the indiscriminate round up of traffic violators and their immediate deportation are being adopted, according to the report. Observers feel many of these measures are unprecedented.

The steps taken by Kuwait run parallel to the Nitaqat system that is being adopted by Saudi Arabia, where a large number of Asian workers are being forced to exit the country in order to accommodate the local unemployed in companies that have been mandated to ensure that 10 per cent of their employees are Saudis.

Observers point to two main factors responsible for the government’s crackdown in Kuwait. First, the pace of infrastructure development in Kuwait has fallen compared to other Gulf countries. Second, the government wants to more tightly monitor the ebb and flow of people to pre-empt the emergence of a politically volatile situation.

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