KUWAIT: (From right) National Assembly Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanem, Foreign Minister Sheikh Ahmad Nasser Al-Mohammad Al-Sabah and Minister of Social Affairs Mariam Al-Aqeel are seen during a meeting to discuss the population structure.

By B Izzak

KUWAIT: National Assembly Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanem yesterday launched a scathing attack on visa traders, describing them as a "mafia" and calling for taking all necessary measures to end the illicit trade. Ghanem was speaking after a number of lawmakers met the foreign minister and the minister for social affairs to discuss issues related to expatriates and restructuring the population composition.

He said that MPs during the meeting demanded quick measures to repatriate thousands of illegal expat workers who have benefited from the one-month amnesty but are still living in camps because their governments have refused to take them back. Ghanem said Minister of Social Affairs Mariam Al-Aqeel told the meeting that over 18,000 such expat workers are being housed in temporary camps until their countries agree to allow them to return. Under the amnesty, which expires today, illegal workers will not pay fines and the government will also pay their air tickets.

Ghanem said that the main cause of problems facing these expat workers are the visa traders who operate like a mafia and who live on accepting illegal money from these poor workers. He said the country is determined to end this "dark chapter from our history" by punishing visa traders. The speaker also called on the interior minister, who has formed an investigation committee on visa trading, to release the findings as soon as the committee completes its work.

MP Abdulwahhab Al-Babtain said he has submitted a letter to the Assembly requiring the interior minister to prepare a report within one month on visa traders who are responsible for bringing many expat workers into the country against money without giving them jobs. He said the letter requires the minister to inform the Assembly about the ministry's mechanism in combating visa traders.

Meanwhile, five lawmakers yesterday submitted an amendment to the rents law stipulating that under these exceptional circumstances, tenants will not be forced to vacate leased houses for not paying the rent. Under the existing rents law, tenants who fail to pay the monthly rent by the 20th of the month can be evicted from the house by a court ruling.

The amendment also stipulates that landlords will have the right to claim full rent from tenants following the exceptional period. Some landlords have already reduced rents as a way to help many people, especially expatriates, whose income has been greatly affected by the current circumstances.