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The Lede Exclusive: Few Takers For Kuwait Amnesty Scheme

27,000 Indians are considered to be undocumented and overstaying in Kuwait but only 5000 have come forward to use the scheme

Only 18% of the undocumented and overstaying Indians in Kuwait have so far left Kuwait using the amnesty programme offered by the government, a senior official from the Indian embassy in Kuwait told The Lede.

“There are around 27,000 Indians undocumented or overstaying who can use this amnesty. But so far, only 8000 have approached us. We have issued Exit Clearance (EC) for the 8000 and 5000 have left Kuwait already,” the official added.

Amnesty is a programme announced by Arab governments, especially the six Gulf countries, in certain intervals to streamline their labour market.

As part of the amnesty programme, migrants without proper documents who are overstaying can leave Kuwait, without paying any fine and facing any legal actions. Kuwait announced a 25-day amnesty on Jan 29, 2018.

However, on Tuesday, the Kuwait government extended the amnesty programme from February 23 to April 22.

When asked how many more Indians are likely to come forward to make use of the amnesty programme, the Indian embassy official said that he wished each and every undocumented and overstaying Indian should make use of the opportunity.

But he added that they expect only a few more Indians will come forward. “Many will come and collect the documents, then they will disappear. It is a sad situation,” he added.

Those who leave the country during this amnesty period are allowed to enter Kuwait again if they meet the regular conditions of entry and if they were not banned for another reason.

Bheem Reddy, an Indian migrant rights activist, who is currently visiting Kuwait, urged every undocumented and overstaying Indians to make use of the amnesty. “Responding to the efforts being made by us and the Telangana government to bring back Telanganites living in Kuwait without valid documents, Jazeera Airways has come forward to bear part of the cost of their air tickets. We urge everyone to make use of the opportunity,” Reddy added.

The Indian embassy is paying for the airfare for the stranded Indian workers from Kharafi National companies and for other genuine cases. Around 5000 Indians from the Kharafi National Company are stranded for the last few years in Kuwait without any pay, proper food and accommodation.

Even though a few workers are ready to make use of the opportunity, the majority of them are confused and reluctant. “We are still unclear on our pending salaries. We have been told to give power of attorney and exit the country by making use of the opportunity. However, we are confused,” an Indian worker told The Lede.

This week, some workers of the Kharafi National Company gathered in front of the Indian embassy demanding clarity on pending salaries and air tickets. The Indian Embassy in Kuwait is currently working in three shifts including Friday and Saturday to process the large number of people coming to utilitise the amnesty scheme.

Various community organisations are also providing support to the crowd by opening help desk with volunteers at embassy premises. According to rough estimates, there are around 8 lakh Indians residing in Kuwait.