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No grace period for illegal foreigners
KUWAIT: Kuwait has announced that it has no plans to grant a grace period to foreigners living in the country illegally, amid reports of an increase in the number of people violating its residency rule, states Bahrain based daily Gulf News.

Quoting from a Kuwait daily, Gulf News writes that the Ministry of Interior has traditionally given illegal foreigners a grace period to get their affairs in order every two years. However, there are reportedly no plans for such a move in the near future. "The Interior Ministry has no intention of granting violators a grace period to regularize their legal status and stay in the country," a security source told the Kuwaiti daily.

"Security forces will track down visa law violators, deport them and blacklist their names, to prevent them from returning to Kuwait," the unnamed source said. He pointed out that when grace periods were granted in the past, only 25 to 30 per cent of people violating the residency laws made use of them.

Up to 65,000 people, mainly Asian expatriates are thought to be staying illegally in the country. "The numbers vary from time to time, and we regret that small businesses and farm owners often hire illegal laborers," said the source. The paper quoted the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor as saying that the number of residency visa violators had increased.

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) labor ministers have been pushing, in the last three years, for a five-year-cap on the residence of unskilled laborers in the six member countries, to be imposed. However the powerful business community has opposed this drive, arguing that it will result in complicated situations and harm the economic interests of the country.

More than 12 million expatriates, almost half of whom are from India and Pakistan, live in the GCC countries. Saudi Arabia, the largest Arab economy, said in April that eight million of its total population of 27.1 million were foreigners.

In September, Prince Ahmad Bin Abdul Aziz, Saudi Arabia's deputy interior minister, said his country could eliminate its unemployment problem by sacking one million expatriate workers. According to Jasem Hussain, a Bahraini economist, around 40 billion US dollars is sent annually from the GCC economies.

"The total amount is higher than this in fact, as some expatriates tend to send money through unofficial channels like relatives and friends leaving for home to avoid paying fees," he said. "The cash carried by workers returning home is not accounted for, either."

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