Kuwait said to be planning residency ban on expats with certain illnesses

Kuwait is said to be planning to ban expatriates who suffer from cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure and several other diseases from being able to obtain legal residency in Kuwait.

Although details on the plan are sketchy, numerous English-language Gulf publications have reported the story over the past week, citing such local sources as the Al-Watan e-newspaper.

An Arab Times report on the matter quoted the country’s assistant undersecretary for General Health Affairs at the Ministry of Health, Majida Al Qattan, as confirmed the news, and saying it was “in line with a GCC council decision” that dated back to 2001.

“Although this move is expected to be criticised, she explained the main aim was to reduce the costs of expat healthcare on the Treasury, and ensure expats arriving in the country are fit to work,” the Arab Times report added.

Until now Kuwait has barred people with infectious diseases from entering or leaving the country, in line with international laws, according to the reports; the difference now is that many of the 22 ailments cited as reasons for not allowing individuals to obtain legal residency aren’t infectious. In addition to cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure, the list is said to include kidney disease, renal failure, herpes, hepatitis B and hepatitis G. Expats with vision problems would also not be permitted to qualify for permanent residency in Kuwait.

The reports noted that it isn’t yet known whether the new rules will apply to those already working in Kuwait, or just to those who are arriving there now.

One press report noted that because the plan to bar expatriates suffering from one or more of the 22 named conditions from permanent residency is already encountering opposition, Kuwait’s health minister, Sheikh Dr Basel Al-Sabah, has said the matter is to be reviewed.

‘Unwelcome’

Even by the increasingly-frosty standards of Gulf countries, Kuwait has begun to stand out as an unwelcome jurisdiction for expatriates. As with many of the other countries that are becoming less welcoming to expatriates, this is seen as a response to a drop in the global oil price – oil being Kuwait’s main export – alongside a desire to encourage companies to hire more Kuwaiti employees.

Last January, as reported, Kuwaiti lawmakers called for the deportation of 1 million expatriates over the next 10 years, for economic, social and security reasons. Around 70% of Kuwait’s population is non-Kuwaiti, with around 28% of the total coming from other Arab countries and 38% from Asia.

Also as reported, last year it raised the fees expats are expected to pay for healthcare while living in the country, the first time it had done this, according to one press report, in two decades.

In January Kuwait came in at the bottom of a list of the best and worst places for expats to live, as ranked by the global expat support network InterNations, which noted that it was the third year in a row that Kuwait was ranked worst, and that it hadn’t been helped “by a slide in the survey respondents’ ratings for its offerings to expats in the ‘Working Abroad’ and ‘Personal Finance’ categories”.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Helen Burggraf
Helen Burggraf is Chief Correspondent for International Investment. She is a US-trained journalist who has worked in Rome, New York City and London, covering among other things the fashion and retailing industries, the global drinking water and water-treatment sector, private equity, and most recently, the international cross-border financial services/advice industry.

Read more from Helen Burggraf

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