US President Donald Trump’s Muslim ban is nothing new to the rulers of Kuwait.
Syrians, Iraqis, Iranians, Pakistanis and Afghans have not been able to obtain visit, tourism or trade visas to Kuwait since 2011, in a move which seemingly pre-empted US restrictions on seven Muslim-majority countries.
Passport holders from the countries are not allowed to enter the Gulf state while the blanket ban is in place, and have been told not to apply to visas.
Kuwaiti sources originally told local media that the restrictions were in place due to the “instability” in the five countries and that the ban would be lifted once the security situation improves.
The long-held policy looks unlikely to change any time soon, bringing into question what officials really mean when they suggest a “temporary ban”.
Pakistan and Afghanistan continue to witness violence from extremist groups, while Syria and Iraq are embroiled in internal conflicts.
Although mainly peaceful, tensions between Iran and the Gulf have ratcheted up over the past year, with the GCC powers accusing Tehran of attempting to destabilise the region.
Kuwait is concerned about the threat of extremist groups such as al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group, and both militant organisations have offshoots in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
But the ban on citizens from fellow Muslim-majority nations has failed to prevent the Gulf state from being targeted in a number of militant attacks over the past two years – including the bombing of a Shia mosque in 2015 which left 27 Kuwaitis dead.
Kuwait responded by arresting dozens of suspected IS sympathisers and rolling out a mandatary DNA testing programme and database for the Gulf state’s four million population.
Kuwait was the only country in the world to officially bar entry to Syrians, until the US named Syria among seven countries whose citizens were banned from entry.
Kuwait has issued a number of laws targeting foreigners in recent years, making it one of the most unfriendly Gulf states towards expatriates.
In 2015, Kuwait was named as the worst place in the world for expatriates in a 64-country InterNations survey.
Meanwhile, Trump’s Muslim ban has been met with widespread outrage since it was signed on Friday, although most Gulf states have largely remained quiet on the issue.
Dubai security chief Dhahi Khalfan outraged Syrians and other nationalities included in the ban when he backed Trump’s decision, and UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan said the ban was “not Islamophobic”.