Plights of a Pandemic: The Disconnect Between Migration, Policy, and Practice in Kuwait

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Master of City and Regional Planning (MCRP)
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labor laws
kafala system
migrant workers
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Jafar, Nour

Labor laws within the State of Kuwait are in need of reform. The country’s labor and residency policies create legal loopholes for exploitation, abuse, and human trafficking. The COVID-19 pandemic worsened living conditions for low-income migrant communities, exacerbating these and related problems. Lockdowns forced migrants to stay at home for long periods of time with no income, food shortages, constant threats of eviction from landlords, and higher infection rates. This research uses semi-structured interviews and policy analysis to trace how labor and residency policies within Kuwait impact migrant communities, particularly in the context of the pandemic. Interviews are conducted with experts from different governmental agencies, while policy examination highlights what discrepancies exist. What effects have policies and governance in Kuwait had on human rights relating to workforce development within migrant communities during the covid 19 pandemic? How does the kafala system function to provide basic social services to migrant workers? How do Kuwait’s policies influence the actions of labor brokers? How do labor policies function between the private and public sector? What social services has the government introduced to protect the migrant community during the pandemic? This paper identifies the flaws of labor policies that have allowed for visa trafficking and exploitation to occur, such as the lack of protection of private sector workers, as well as corruption leading to senior officials within different governmental entities engaging as visa traffickers.

Vitiello, Domenic
Ammon, Francesca Russello
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Concentration: Housing, Community and Economic Development
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