Rights body slams rampant visa trading in Kuwait


Cleaning workers contracted by a private company to work at the Ministry of Health went on a strike three days ago followed by gas station attendants who staged a strike on Monday. The two incidents are the most recent in a string of walkouts staged over the past year by the state’s low-paid expat laborers. "This is a red line and a last shout to resolve the issue," Al-Baghli said. "We are all witnessing protests by laborers who do not get their salaries even though their salaries are minuscule and that is due to the greed of some Kuwaitis," he added. "These companies trade in human beings," Al-Baghli said, making sure not to blame all Kuwaitis for the greed of some corrupt Kuwaiti embezzlers and unscrupulous businesses.



Al-Baghli lay blame on the government and MPs for Kuwait’s recent drop to Tier 3 on the US list of countries not doing enough to combat human trafficking. "There is a lack of response from government entities such as the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor as well as the Ministry of Interior and the National Assembly…the parliament does not take human rights seriously," he lamented. "We have not seen any productive action by the parliament to stop these injustices against workers.



Al-Baghli noted that some MPs had gone so far as to accuse some of their colleagues in parliament of being party to labor abuses. The Human Rights Society called upon the Cabinet and the Assembly to change the government’s contract bidding laws which are loosely arranged and not monitored. "There should be a minimum wage adhered to for workers in these companies and a mechanism to check on companies to make certain they are paying their workers. Their contracts stipulate salaries at KD 60 per month while in reality workers get paid KD 20. The rest goes in the pockets of the companies and influential individuals who protect the companies," said Al-Baghli, who called for a minimum wage to start at KD 80 to 100.



Al-Baghli pointed out towards the hesitancy on the part of Minister of Social Affairs and Labor Bader Al-Duwaila to meet with the society. "We requested a meeting with the minister in writing on the 10th of June but he has not yet met with us and now they are saying he is out of the country," said Al-Baghli, who noted that the group had previously met with the previous minister of social affairs and labor who gave the group all of ten minutes to state their grievances over the state of human and labor rights in Kuwait. "We will meet with the prime minister so he can help us solve the issue," he said.



Speaking out against the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor’s newly- announced nine guidelines to establishing NGOs in Kuwait, Al-Baghli said: "The Kuwaiti constitution’s 43rd amendment gives us the right to establish NGOs and unions." He urged Kuwaitis to reject the guidelines, saying, "The Kuwait Human Rights Society calls on all NGOs and the civil society to stand against these rules and reject them because they are unconstitutional, illegal and irrational.



He cited the guideline requiring a one-year probationary period for NGOs as an example of the irrationality of the rules. Additionally, he cited the rule which does not allow membership in more than one NGO. "I am a lawyer by profession and am a member of the Lawyers Society. By this rule I cannot be a member of the Human Rights Society as well, and this is unreasonable," Al-Baghli said, adding flatly: "With these guidelines there will be no new NGOs in Kuwait.



Putting the guidelines in a historical context, Al-Baghli said, "NGOs have withstood other viscous campaigns. In the 1980s during the unconstitutional dissolution of parliament, they dissolved some NGOs and forced some to appoint boards handpicked by the government rather than allowing organizations to elect representatives." Calling the new guidelines ‘unreasonable’, he said, "We should reject them because there is no excuse for them.



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