Kuwait News

 

 

Kuwait will lift the four-month coronavirus ban on Friday prayers at mosques nationwide this week after taking all measures to prevent the disease's spread.

= Necessary precautionary measures have been taken to prepare the mosques, like complete sanitization, guiding signboards and measures to ensure social distancing between worshippers.

= Mosque doors will open 30 minutes before the call to prayer and close 15 minutes after with the Khutbah (sermon) and prayer not exceeding 15 minutes.

= The entry and exit of worshippers will also be organized with signs on the ground organizing the location of each worshipper during prayer.

= Imams (preachers) have been instructed to remind worshippers of abiding by health and safety measures, like social distancing, to wear facemasks and to stay home if they experience any symptoms.

= Water fountains and toilets will be shut with seats and door handles routinely sanitized.

= Worshippers are required to carry out their pre-prayer wash (wudu) at home.

= Worshippers are required to bring their own prayer rug and wear a facemask or will otherwise be denied entry with hand shaking or close social interactions discouraged inside the mosque.

= Children under the age of 15 will also be denied entry.

 

Education Minister Dr Saud Al-Harbi

KUWAIT: Minister of Education and Minister of Higher Education Dr Saud Al-Harbi announced taking measures to eliminate obstacles stopping the optical fibers project, which is essential to proceed with e-learning, after completing about 80 percent of it in cooperation with the Ministry of Communications (MoC). This came in a press statement after Harbi’s meeting Sunday with the supervisors of the project for installing optical fibers networks from the MoC, in the presence of the MoE Acting Undersecretary Dr Bader Al-Mutairi.

Harbi underlined the need for this project since it is linked to the ministry’s plan for e-learning and distance education, considering that it is part of the government’s e-transformation program, linking educational agencies and schools to facilitate services and develop the educational process. Previously, the ministry accomplished vital steps, then it stopped for technical matters, which led to the delay in its completion, but all obstacles will be resolved with MoC to work on it and operate it soon, he noted.

Extremely fast

Meanwhile, the project’s superintendent Maali Al-Jasser said in a statement that the project was launched in 2012, with an implementation period of 18 months, aiming to connect all Kuwaiti schools and the ministry’s general office with optical fibers. This network is extremely fast as the student, teacher and administrator can benefit from it to transfer information electronically, nonetheless the ministry is in the process of extending the time completion, Jasser indicated.

The education ministry has asked grade 12 students to register in an online platform it recently launched as it prepares to potentially launch online classes before allowing high school seniors to take their finals by September. The education ministry had suspended school on March 1, with the current plan is to resume classes in August for grade 12 and October for other stages. However, the ministry is widely expected to make an announcement in the coming days to end the school year for all stages except for grade 12, while rescheduling the finals for grade 12 students in September after completing the remaining curricula through online classes next month. Over 95 percent of eligible 12 grade students have registered in the online platform, the education ministry had announced last week. Meanwhile, Assistant Undersecretary for Special and Qualitative Education in the Ministry of Education Dr Abdul Mohsen Al-Huwaila announced Sunday the activation of e-learning in Arab schools, with the participation of 45 private schools and 7,190 students.

Exemption

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Higher Education announced Sunday that university students registered for the fall semester of the academic year 2020-2021 online and those due to file for accrediting their certificates later on would be exempted from studying a number of subjects.

In this regard, the ministry’s official spokesperson and assistant undersecretary for cultural affairs, accreditation and scholarships Fatima Al-Sannan said the decision was made by the accreditation committee during its meeting last Thursday and that it was taken upon reports from Kuwait cultural offices abroad concerning many universities in scholarship countries shifting to online learning. Sannan added that the current dangerous health situation worldwide prompted the health ministry to recommend avoiding travel, and thus the decision was made to exempt the fall semester form the minimum number of subjects to be studied as per the ministry regulations.

Further, Sannan pointed that the Ministry of Higher Education met Sunday with US embassy representatives to discuss the US immigration department’s recent decision on the departure of international students from the US if they can do the fall semester online. She added that the embassy representatives responded to many questions in this regard and that coordination is still in progress with the embassy to prepare those responses and circulate them amongst Kuwaiti students in the US.

Source: Kuwait Times

KUWAIT: Official government sources told Al-Anbaa daily that travel restrictions on expats will be lifted soon, as they will be included in the government plan to gradually resume commercial flights at Kuwait International Airport from Aug 1, 2020. In this regard, informed source said having an accredited PCR certificate proving passengers are clear of COVID-19 will be one of the main conditions for passengers on departure. The sources added that the certificate fee will be between KD 10 and 20 and will be determined by ground service officials.

The sources explained that passengers would have to obtain the PCR certificates four days prior to departure, but added they are not required to enter some countries, such as Egypt and Turkey. On the other hand, citizens and expats returning to Kuwait would have to obtain PCR certificates from health centers accredited by Kuwaiti embassies abroad without having to endorse them at Kuwaiti consulates in order to avoid overburdening embassies abroad and avoid crowding observed previously outside Kuwaiti embassies in a number of countries.

Moreover, the sources said a specialized approved health lab will be set up at Kuwait airport under Ministry of Health (MoH) supervision to issue health certificates to departing passengers proving them to be clear of COVID-19. In addition, the sources said the Shlonik app is available for both citizens and expats and that travel will be open for both departing and arriving citizens and expats until further MoH instructions.

Meanwhile, Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) Director Yousef Al-Fauzan issued a directive allowing the entry of expat MoH staff members and their first-degree relatives even if their residencies had expired, said Al-Qabas. In this regard, official sources stressed that over 1,000 medics (doctors, nurses and lab and radiology technicians) who had been stranded abroad, mainly in India, have already returned through Kuwait airport upon MoH request to allow them back to Kuwait to support medical staff.

Source: Kuwait Times

B Izzak

KUWAIT: The council of ministers on Thursday decided to lift a lockdown on Jleeb Al-Shuyoukh and Mahboula residential areas more than 100 days of imposing it to combat the spread of the coronavirus. This means that the lockdown will remain on Farwaniya, the last residential area in isolation.

Government spokesman Tareq Al-Mazrem said the lockdown will be lifted on Thursday, July 9 from 5:00 am, adding that the decision was based on recommendations by the health minister.

Jleeb Al-Shuyoukh and Mahboula , home to over half a million mostly expat workers, were the first two residential areas to be locked down in the country after the virus broke out among low-paid expat laborers residing in the two areas.

The decision was taken despite a jump in the number of coronavirus cases reported over the past 24 hours. The health ministry said 919 cases were reported yesterday compared to 745 cases the previous day. Kuwaitis continued to top the list with a big difference.

In the meantime, the national assembly legal and legislative committee Thursday decided that a draft law submitted by five MPs and proposing a quota system for expatriate communities, was found to be in line with the Kuwaiti constitution and laws.

The committee decided to refer the bill to the concerned committee that will study all legislation on expatriates in the country with the aim to cut their numbers. According to the bill, the largest foreign community in Kuwait, the Indians, must not exceed 15 percent of the Kuwaiti population who currently stand at 1.45 million. If approved, the law would require some 800,000 Indians to leave the country, which is an impossible task by all means.

The legal committee also decided to lift the immunity of two lawmakers suspected to be involved in the corruption scandal allegedly run by a Bangladeshi MP currently detained in Kuwait over the allegations.

The two MPs, Saadoun Hammad and Salah Khorshed said they asked the committee to lift their immunity so they could be interrogated by the public prosecution in order to clear their names, denying that they had anything to do with the scandal.

By B Izzak

KUWAIT: The interior ministry will submit to the National Assembly within two weeks a draft law proposing changes to the residency law, as the Assembly prepares to complete legislation to facilitate the reduction of expats in the country within a few months, officials said yesterday. Speaking to state-run Kuwait Television, Interior Minister Anas Al-Saleh said the government has a complete draft law proposing to “upgrade the residency law”, which will be sent to the Assembly within the next two weeks.

The draft law calls to benefit from neighboring and advanced countries with the aim to encourage only those expats that are needed to stay in the country, the minister said without elaborating. The statement is a clear reference to the intention to cut expat numbers.

Assembly Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanem also told Kuwait TV that he and a group of lawmakers will submit to the Assembly a comprehensive draft law calling for a gradual reduction of expats in the country. Ghanem said it is difficult at this stage to impose quotas with specific percentages for different nationalities, in reference to another draft law cleared on Thursday by the legal and legislative committee that assigns specific percentages for various foreign communities.

The speaker said that Kuwait has a real problem in its population structure, in which 70 percent are expats, adding that what is more serious is that 1.3 million of the 3.35 million expats “are either illiterate or can merely read and write”, who is not the people Kuwait really needs. He said 100,000 of these people are workers who are illiterate.

“I understand that we recruit doctors and skilled manpower and not unskilled laborers. This is an indication that there is a distortion. Visa traders have contributed in increasing this figure,” Ghanem said. The speaker said the draft law they intend to file will propose to impose a cap on the number of expats, whose numbers must decrease gradually by stating that this year expats will be 70 percent, next year 65 percent and so on.

The draft law also proposes to determine the number of expats that can be recruited every year, including their specialization and other details, he said. Ghanem said the Assembly is determined to complete the population structure legislation before the end of this Assembly term. The term ends in October and new elections are scheduled for November.

Meanwhile, MP Khalil Al-Saleh, head of the Assembly’s manpower resources development committee, said the panel will start this week looking into a number of draft laws on the population structure. Ghanem stressed visa trading is “brutal, which amounts to trafficking in persons and must be countered”.

The interior minister said since the start of a campaign targeting visa traders a few months ago, 282 cases involving 417 companies have been referred to the public prosecution for interrogation over visa trading offences. The cases relate to 526 people including 49 Kuwaitis, the minister said.

He said the interior ministry has supplied all information regarding the case of the Bangladeshi MP who is detained in the country over a suspected corruption scandal involving high-profile people like MPs, senior officials and others. “There is no red line” in the fight against visa traders, Saleh said. “All those who took part in this cancerous disease must be held to account … The file of visa traders must vanish and we will eradicate it from Kuwait”.

Minister of Social Affairs Mariam Al-Aqeel told the same TV program that around 12,500 expat workers were found to be affected by the visa traders already referred to the public prosecutors. She said that during the coronavirus months, the Public Authority for Manpower received 2,500 labor complaints and the files of 2,207 companies have been suspended.

She said that a leading official at the manpower authority has been suspended for involvement in the Bangladeshi MP case and that three other employees are being interrogated for their suspected involvement.

Attorney General Mohammad Al-Duaij meanwhile said that since the start of the year, the public prosecution has received 59 cases of human trafficking involving 300 suspects. He said trafficking in persons cases in Kuwait are mainly of two types: The first involves employers refusing to pay the salaries of their workers or even reducing those salaries. The second involves people “trading” in domestic helpers like a “commodity”.

Duaij said suspects connected to such cases are normally arrested and detained at the central jail. He said between 2015 and end of 2019, as many as 157 suspects in human trafficking cases were tried and 84 of them were handed harsh sentences ranging between 15 years in jail to life in prison.

Source : Kuwait Times

KUWAIT: Kuwait Diving Team of the Environmental Voluntary Foundation lifted remains of sunken boats, tires and other dumped materials littering the seabed in Kuwait Bay. Team leader Walid Al-Fadhel said on Saturday that the divers brought to surface a sunken ship, remains of a two-ton yacht, others of a sunken boat weighing three tons from Oshairej shores. They also removed abandoned wooden and plastic materials, fishing nets weighing five tons and monitored fishermen picking crabs and snails in an illegal fashion. He reiterated the appeal upon seagoers and fishermen to abide by rules for safeguarding the Kuwaiti marine environment.

The Kuwaiti divers have not suspended activities at sea to rid the marine environment of harmful objects left behind by negligent persons. Moreover, they have been regularly examining condition of coral reefs in territorial waters despite extraordinary conditions prevailing in the country due to the coronavirus crisis.

The fishermen had in the past lifted various objects harmful to the reefs, such as abandoned heavy anchors and dumped nets. The reefs off the Kuwaiti coast had also suffered from bleaching in the peak of past summers. The foundation along with state authorities have repeatedly urged sea goers and seamen to refrain from littering the sea and dumping objects that hurt coral reefs and other marine creatures. —KUNA

MP Osama Al-Shaheen

By B Izzak and A Saleh

KUWAIT: Lawmakers are pressing the government for a definitive plan to substantially reduce the number of expatriates within one to two years, rapporteur of the National Assembly’s human resources development panel said yesterday. MP Osama Al-Shaheen however said the government has so far refused to commit to such a plan and is seeking a loose “framework” that leaves details and figures to the government.

Expats at present form 70 percent of the population with 3.35 million residents, while Kuwaitis form just 30 percent with 1.45 million, according to official statistics. Shaheen said the prime minister has pointed out that the ideal situation is by reversing the percentage to 70 percent citizens and 30 percent expats, while the government in studies talks about a 60-40 ratio in favor of Kuwaitis.

But the reality is far from the two proposals, said Shaheen, adding that the government opinion on this issue must be united before even debating the required plan. Reducing expats to just 30 percent of the population means making them around 700,000, which is impossible by all counts simply because the number of domestic helpers currently stands at 750,000.

Shaheen said what is important now is “to begin in a real and effective way”, which has not happened until now, adding that the number of illegals who left voluntarily was only 29,000 out of 150,000, “so what can be done with those living legally in the country?” Shaheen said the Assembly panel has given the government ample time to study proposals submitted by lawmakers, adding that MPs are hoping for a resolution to this issue within a year or two at most. But he acknowledged that the problem, which has been accumulating for the past 50 years, requires a longer time to resolve.

Head of the panel MP Khalil Al-Saleh said in press statements yesterday that Kuwait can reduce the number of expats by one million within three months after resuming commercial flights. He said this number includes around 168,000 illegals – 500,000 “roaming workers” who have no fixed jobs, in addition to expats who would be laid off from government jobs.

MP Al-Humaidi Al-Subaei said yesterday that the increasing number of violations against marginal expat workers and trafficking in persons are the main reasons for asking the minister of social affairs to prepare a report on measures taken against violators. He said the request, which was approved by the Assembly, calls on the minister to submit the report within just one month and should include names of those involved.

In a related development, the issue of the Bangladeshi MP detained in Kuwait on human trafficking and money laundering charges appears to be snowballing to include several leading officials and lawmakers. Footage posted on social media yesterday showed the Bangladeshi lawmaker speaking in the Bangladeshi parliament and claiming that he was making some KD 100,000 daily in Kuwait  and that he was spending a lot on poor people and charities in his country. Local press said leading figures from the government have been added to his list of accomplices, in addition to at least two current Kuwaiti MPs and an ex-MP.

Meanwhile, the manpower authority yesterday explained in a press release that emergency teams were dispatched to the scene of a protest in Mahboula last week and found over 148 workers demonstrating because they had not received salaries for March, April and May. The employer was summoned, who said his contract with the government had expired on Jan 22 and his contract with the foreign partner had expired on Jan 29.

The employer added that on June 25, he had submitted a portfolio of documents indicating the contract’s expiry and an affidavit from the foreign partner bearing responsibility for the workers’ financial, administrative and legal liabilities and rights. The authority added that on receiving this portfolio from the company, the matter was referred to Minister of Social Affairs and Minister of State for Economic Affairs Mariam Al-Aqeel on June 26.

Aqeel was asked her to contact the ministers of oil and electricity and water to take proper measures and withhold the company’s cash deposit and any due payments, as well as administratively suspend dealing with the company until the workers’ dues are paid. The authority said despite notifying the workers of the measures taken so far, they have continued their agitation.

Source: Kuwait Times

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