Most of them are blue collar workers picked up during police raid on visa violations

Officials in the Indian Embassy in Kuwait on Sunday established contact with 650 Indians, mostly blue collar workers, who were picked up on Wednesday during a raid by the police.

“After the lapse of the weekend here, we have managed to gain access today to many of the detainees and the exercise is continuing as we speak,” said Vidhu P. Nair, Charge de Affaires at the Indian Embassy in Kuwait.

On Sunday, embassy officials visited detention centres — covered halls where many of the detainees are kept — and deportation centres where the large covered enclosures are sometimes split into smaller cubicles.

The police had carried out a flash security raid in a locality dominated by blue collar workers for suspected visa violations.

“There are some who may hold a domestic worker visa but may be working in the private sector, which is covered by a separate visa category. Then there are those whose visa may have expired and their stay in Kuwait has, consequently, become illegal,” he observed.

Out of 2,136 people of all nationalities who were picked up, the majority, estimated between 1,500-2,000 are Indians, mostly from Rajasthan.

Around 100 have been so far released, but the fate of the most others still hangs in a balance.

Analysts point out that the incident in Kuwait once again exposes the flaws of the sponsorship system, which is prevalent in large parts of the Gulf countries. For instance, many of those whose visas have expired may now have to face deportation, in case the sponsor decides not to extend the visa by paying a nominal fee for the gap from the day of the visa expiry to the date of renewal.

Observers say that on several occasions, it is the sponsors who issue domestic visas but send the worker for illegal employment in the private sector.

While the immediate provocation for the raid is not known, analysts say that the authorities may have been apprehending the prevalence of human trafficking and other crimes.

Last year, Kuwait declared a general amnesty that allowed workers either to regularise their visas or to leave the country without furnishing a penalty. However, it is estimated that only 50 per cent of the people availed themselves of the amnesty.

On Sunday, the embassy formally sought the Kuwaiti Interior Ministry’s intervention for ensuring the welfare of the detainees. The Rajasthan association in Kuwait is also following the case closely.

More In: International | News