Kuwait - Migrant workers given ‘amnesty’ as employers retain passports (2012)

In an attempt to regularise the migrant worker sector, an amnesty was called and workers were given from March to June 2011 to regularise their employment or leave Kuwait. Several thousand workers including Sri Lankan migrant workers are expected to lose their jobs. According to the Sri Lankan mission in Kuwait, more than 10,000 Sri Lankan migrant workers are alleged to be illegal, as they have changed their work places, leaving their original work sponsors. Under Kuwait law, migrant workers are tied to their original sponsors. If they leave their original sponsors, then they are considered to be in Kuwait illegally. As the original sponsors always hold the workers travel documents, in effect this means that when workers start work somewhere else they are working and staying illegally in the country, without the possession of their travel documents and work visas. In a catch 22 situation this also means they cannot leave the country. Some 4000 Sri Lankan workers had obtained emergency passports in order to leave Kuwait before the end of the amnesty period.

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