By Faten Omar
KUWAIT: Kuwait Times has received several complaints regarding the arbitrary decisions that workers face when they resign or try to leave their sponsors, as a number of employees were deported after demanding their right to resign and get a better job. Speaking to Kuwait Times, Mohammad Al-Jassem, lawyer and Interpol-accredited expert in international law enforcement cooperation, confirmed there are defects in the unclear legislation in the country, where having connections (wasta) can obstruct the law and manipulate the system.
Jassem pointed out the legislative and executive authorities in the country should quickly form investigation committees to overcome legal obstacles in the system and apply penalties to improve the administrative system to keep pace with the development of laws and regulations, such as in developed countries.
According to US Trafficking in Persons Report, the Kuwait government does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. It includes recommendations to help Kuwait fully comply with minimum international standards in this regard, which include serious reforms to the sponsor-based employment system and increased law enforcement efforts to investigate human traffickers.
Jassem noted that laws in Kuwait cannot be applied in real life sometimes due to many reasons, where sponsors try to end contracts of the employee if they demand to transfer their work visa or resign, advising employees to always have an official written letter from the company, whether accepting the resignation or rejecting it.
“Some employers manipulate the law. The employee must take a copy of their resignation letter or email and get official approval for resigning physically and not verbally to prove their situation and avoid any ‘absconding case’ that may result in their deportation later,” Jassem said. He said that there will be a labor inspection to prove the absence of the employee, and even if the sponsor tells the employee not to come to work, they must prove this at the Public Authority of Manpower to avoid being deported.
“Many absconding cases are false, with employers attempting to sidestep their legal obligations to pay wages or force employees to take back their resignation. Reporting workers as absconding is also easy for employers to rid themselves of responsibilities towards the workers, taking advantage of the often-weak verification process,” he said. Jassem said in case of rejection, the employee must take the written rejection of resignation and submit it along with a complaint to the Public Authority of Manpower, where the accusation will be investigated and then they will determine the final decision.
Lawyer Shahd Al-Qattan said human trafficking is not limited to slavery, but also preventing employees from their basic rights guaranteed by the constitution. “The absence of laws that regulate such cases results in an increase in human trafficking instead of reducing it. The authorities in Kuwait do not categorize or investigate labor violations as potential human trafficking cases, and such cases are usually treated as administrative infractions. That is why we find sponsors file complaints against their employees who wish to transfer their residency to another employer, sometimes resulting in deportation or administrative detention of the victim,” she noted.
Meanwhile, Lawyer Jumanah Issa called on authorities to fix these legal loopholes that give business owners arbitrary power over workers, and trafficking in the vulnerable must be closed by enacting a law that makes Kuwait the only authority that controls labor in the country. “The legal loopholes have become a weapon in the hands of the employer, due to clear manipulation and delay in transferring the dispute to the court, which entails the expiry of the worker’s residence visa, resulting in fines and deportation,” she said.