KUWAIT: Minister of Interior Sheikh Thamer Al-Ali Al-Sabah on Wednesday issued a decision granting a new grace period to residency violators to help them adjust their status - from Feb 1 till March 2. Those who don't adjust their residency status during this period will be punished in line with the law, prevented from obtaining valid residency and deported, the ministry's security media department said in a statement. They also will not be allowed to come back to Kuwait, it added.

The decision comes a few days before an ongoing grace period was supposed to end on Jan 31. The decision gives more time to the violators to legalize their status to avoid any punishment and measures to be taken by the ministry after the end of this period, the ministry noted. The move aims to facilitate matters in light of the exceptional conditions due to the novel coronavirus crisis facing the country, it pointed out.

These conditions led to the suspension of flights and activities and the closure of the Public Authority for Manpower for two weeks, the ministry said. These factors prevented violators from adjusting their status, according to the statement. But response by residency violators has been underwhelming, as many prefer to remain in the country due to a variety of reasons, including the inability to pay fines or the airfare, uncertainty whether they will be able to return as issuance of new work permits is suspended and a lack of job opportunities in their home countries.

As inspection campaigns are no longer carried out, the number of residency violators in the country has reached a record of 180,000, Al-Rai Arabic daily reported earlier this month. This is an increase of 38 percent from five months ago, as very few expats have responded to repeated amnesties to allow violators to leave with the possibility of returning with new visas, the newspaper added. - Agencies