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Kuwait security forces break up Egyptian worker 'riot' over repatriation

Workers, who are seeking to return home, were being held in shelters for those in violation of Gulf state's residency laws
Kuwait agreed last month to allow expatriates violating its residency laws to leave the country without paying fines or air tickets (AFP)

Kuwaiti security forces broke up a riot by Egyptian workers seeking repatriation, the interior ministry said on Monday. The workers are being held in shelters dedicated for those in violation of the Gulf state's residency laws.

Security forces intervened after "riots and chaos" broke out and seized several people who would face legal measures, the statement carried on state media said.

Representatives of the Egyptian embassy in Kuwait went to the shelter and reassured workers that repatriation flights would begin this week, the statement said.

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The Egyptian embassy also apologised for the riots, it added.

Several Gulf governments are trying to arrange flights for foreigners stranded or affected by job losses due to the coronavirus pandemic, as well as those whose residencies have expired and will not be renewed.

Kuwait agreed last month to allow expatriates violating its residency laws to leave the country without paying fines or air tickets, with women and children due to leave first, Reuters reported.

Local newspaper Al Qabas said some 28,000 foreigners out of an estimated 160,000 without valid residencies have registered for repatriation and were being held in 34 shelters across the country. 

It said this included some 6,500 Egyptians, 6,300 Indians and 6,000 Bangladeshis.

Millions of expatriates, many from Asia, make up the bulk of the region's labour force.

Initially coronavirus cases in the region were linked to travel but Gulf states have seen an increase in infections among low-income migrant workers living in overcrowded accommodation.

Kuwait has among the lowest infection counts in the region at some 4,980 cases with 38 deaths. 

The total for the six Gulf states has surpassed 67,600, with 380 deaths.