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Only article 20 visa ban for Bangladeshis

KUWAIT: A new ban on the recruitment of Bangladeshi nationals will only affect article 20 visa workers (domestic helpers) and not article 18 (private sector) workers, according to Abdullatif Khan, Councilor and Labor Attache at the Bangladeshi Embassy. “We were informed today (Tuesday) that the visa ban that was imposed due to a number of problematic cases involving our nationals will be temporary. Bangladeshis and probably Kuwaitis are involved in visa trading, so until corrective measures are implemented, recruitment will be temporarily suspended,” Khan told Kuwait Times in an exclusive interview.

According to Khan, there are around 200,000 Bangladeshi workers in Kuwait, the majority of whom hold article 20 visas. Holders of article 20 visas are mostly domestic helpers, family drivers and houseboys, while visa 18 holders are skilled laborers and people working in private companies.

On Monday, Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Sheikh Khalid Al-Jarrah Al-Sabah issued a decision to halt the issuance of work visas for Bangladeshis and sent the decision to Assistant Undersecretary for Nationality and Passports Maj Gen Sheikh Mazen Al-Jarrah Al-Sabah for implementation. A source said the minister’s decision was made after the ministry noticed a notable rise in the number of Bangladeshi workers in the country and based on reports from various security departments, which show that after a previous ban on Bangladeshi workers was lifted, they became a target of iqama traders, resulting in irregularities and abuses.

“Apparently there are people involved in visa trading. For example, many Bangladeshis who came to Kuwait are not actually working with their original sponsors. This is illegal and not allowed as per Kuwait laws,” said Khan. “Your sponsor should be your sponsor until you end the contract. The Kuwaiti authorities and our labor office here expect that you are working with the same person who sponsored you to come to Kuwait, but apparently many of our Bangladeshi workers are working somewhere else. So they want to correct this specific problem,” he said.

Kuwait has witnessed a series of problems with regards to its domestic labor force in recent months. The government of the Philippines implemented a blanket ban on recruitment of Filipinos to Kuwait following reports of abuses and mistreatment. Meanwhile, the government is working to reduce the numbers of expatriate workers – especially marginal laborers – in the country, making obtaining visas more difficult and cracking down on human trafficking networks. There are more than 500,000 domestic laborers in Kuwait and an unknown number of marginal laborers. Tens of thousands of expats are also living illegally in the country.

By Ben Garcia

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