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Human Rights Watch notes Kuwait labor progress

KUWAIT CITY, Jan 14, (Agencies): According to a recent report which has been issued by the Human Rights Watch Kuwait in 2016 took steps to improve the rights of migrant workers. During the same period, Kuwait also enacted a minimum wage for domestic workers, eased employer transfer rules, and passed regulations that gave domestic workers rights for the first time.

Unlike many of its Gulf neighbors, Kuwait continued to allow Human Rights Watch access to the country and engaged in constructive dialogue with the organization on a range of human rights issues.

The Amir also ordered the concerned authorities to amend a 2015 law, that was the first of its kind, that required all individuals in Kuwait to provide DNA samples in violation of their right to privacy.

However, Kuwait continues to exclude thousands of stateless people, known as bedoun, from full citizenship despite their longstanding roots in Kuwaiti territory.

Two-thirds of Kuwait’s population is comprised of migrant workers. Kuwait continues to reform aspects of the ‘kafala’ or sponsorship system, which ties a migrant worker’s legal residence and valid immigration status to an employer.

Kuwait issued a new standard contract for migrant workers in 2015 and an administrative decision that allows some migrant workers to transfer their sponsorship to a new employer without their current employer’s consent after three years of work in 2016.

Previously, migrant workers needed to end their contract and their employer’s consent to change employers. These reforms do not extend to migrant domestic workers. In 2015, the National Assembly passed a law that gave domestic workers the right to a weekly day off, 30 days of annual paid leave, a 12-hour working day with rest, and an end-ofservice benefit of one month a year at the end of the contract, among other rights.

In July, the Interior Ministry passed implementing regulations for the law, including clarifying that employers must pay overtime compensation.

The same month, the ministry issued a decree that established a minimum wage for domestic workers of KD 60 ($200). Protections in the domestic workers law are still weaker than those in the labor law, which provides for an eighthour work day with one hour of rest after every five hours of work and detailed provisions for sick leave.

The domestic worker law also falls short by failing to set out enforcement mechanisms, such as labor inspections of working conditions in households, which can be done with due regard to privacy. Migrant workers remain vulnerable to abuse, forced labor, and deportation for minor infractions including traffic violations and “absconding” from an employer. The authorities have deported 14,400 migrants in the first four months of 2016, according to local media.

During a September visit to Kuwait, the UN special Rapporteur on trafficking welcomed Kuwait’s establishment of a shelter for domestic workers, but urged the government to continue its reforms and abolish the sponsorship system. The report added, at least 105,702 bedoun residents of Kuwait remain stateless. After an initial registration period for citizenship ended in 1960, the authorities shifted the bedoun citizenship claims to administrative committees that for decades have avoided resolving the claims.

The authorities claim many bedoun are “illegal residents” who deliberately destroyed evidence of another nationality in order to receive benefits that Kuwait gives its citizens. Members of the bedoun community have taken to the streets to protest the government’s failure to address their citizenship claims, despite government warnings that bedoun should not gather in public.

Article 12 of the 1979 Public Gatherings Law bars non-Kuwaitis from participating in public gatherings. In 2016, a Comoros Island official told Gulf News that the Comoros Island was open to Kuwaiti officials’ suggestions that Kuwait may pay the Comoros Islands to grant the bedoun a form of economic citizenship, thus regularizing bedoun as foreign nationals and rendering them liable to legal deportation from Kuwait — possibly violating their right to family life. When it comes to women’s rights, Kuwait has no laws to prohibit domestic violence or marital rape.

A 2015 law establishing family courts set up a center to deal with domestic violence cases, but required the center to prioritize reconciliation over protection for domestic violence survivors. On the issue of death penalty, Kuwait maintains this form of punishment for non-violent offenses, including drug-related charges and has carried out five executions in 2013, the first time the country had applied the death penalty since 2007. In 2015 and 2016, courts have sentenced at least nine people to death.

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