By Nuskiya Nasar

The decision to stop issuing visas for expatriates aged sixty years and above in 2020, is making headlines again in terms of its impact on expatriates. This ruling has caused great disruption and hardship for many expatriate families, as they have to uproot their lives and leave behind everything they have built in Kuwait and has also led to a negative impact on the Kuwaiti economy. The loss of expatriate workers led to a shortage of skilled labor, resulting in issues such as the 'tailor crisis' during the peak Ramadan season and so on. While this law has been regulated from the government's side, the residents' side of the story as a result of this law has gone unheard.

While most Kuwaiti citizens agree that this law is unfair to the residents who have resided for a long period in Kuwait and dedicated their life to the development of the country, others differ in their opinions. "You can't have 1.5 million Kuwaitis being serviced by 4.5 million expats," Ramzy, a Kuwaiti told Kuwait Times, adding "Out of the four and half million expats we have here, 4.4 million are unskilled! They are the ones who are creating drug issues, prostitution problems, and other issues."

Regarding the presence of skilled expats aged sixty and above, who work as carpenters or tailors, he said "We have too many garages and too many people! At the end of the day, everybody has to go back to their home country!" Ramzy also stated that investors and graduates are welcome as long as they are skilled and qualified from reputable universities such as Harvard, Oxford, Cambridge, Stanford, and MIT.

Meanwhile, Mohamed Dehrab, a Kuwaiti, disagrees with Ramzy and stressed that the law was unfair, explaining, "The expats have spent all their life here in Kuwait helping to add to the development of this country. They have been loyal to our country since the very beginning, when they were young and now, we are sending them back just because they are old. I do not agree with this law."

While Ramzy emphasizes bringing in more qualified and skilled workers, since he believes that those who are aged sixty years and above, are either unskilled or are congesting Kuwait with too many repetitive skills that are useless. Yet, Mohamed says, that this law is unjust and lacks empathy towards the expats who have invested their skills and expertise in Kuwait's development till date.

"My Dad has stayed in Kuwait all his life, this is his home," Fawad, a resident told Kuwait Times. He added "Why would someone leave his country and come here? To earn money. My dad's whole life was built here in Kuwait, this is his home. Right now, he needs to pay 800 KWD to renew his visa, in addition to payments involving our health expenses and fees. This is putting a lot of financial strain on him. If Kuwait asks him to leave, it is actually a loss for the government too, as he is skilled and runs a garage."

Another resident, Jafar said, "Every society needs to be built upon respect for the people who have made contributions in building it and most of the expats who are aged sixty years and above are skilled, regardless of whether or not they hold university degrees. They have the skills required to build a society. So, if the Kuwaiti government asks them to leave from this society, it is weakening its own foundation."

This decision is believed to have caused considerable hardship for many expatriates, who were relying on these visas to work and make a stable living in Kuwait, compared to the highly unfavorable economies back in their home countries.

Many residents also feel that they have a strong connection to this country, in terms of the number of fruitful years they have dedicated to Kuwait's economy, and hold it dear to their hearts. Another resident stated "Given that I spent my entire childhood in Kuwait, I would consider it my home. I wasn't only born and raised here, but my dad also spent almost 40 years of his life working in an office here in Kuwait."

Kuwait's recent employment policy, dubbed Kuwaitization, is also said to be aimed at addressing its demographic imbalance and efforts have already been taken to replace foreign workers with its citizens. The first phase of the policy will be enacted starting this month with the termination of contracts for a majority of skilled expat workers. While the efforts of the Kuwaiti government are aimed at prioritizing employment for its own citizens, is it truly human to disregard long-standing expat workers who have spent the majority of their lives in Kuwait, contributing to its own development, to be asked to leave within a period of mere months?