The specter of islamic terrorism continues to loom large over international travel, and only seems to be spreading its tendrils further into the lives of ordinary people – Kuwait has now launched the world’s first airport DNA-entry system to combat terror. It is expected to come into operation later this year.
Although the country had floated the idea of a DNA entry test in 2015, the official announcement of this unprecedented law seems to coincide with the deadly suicide bombings in neighboring Saudi Arabia targeting the minority Shia community which shocked the world. One of the perpetrators was identified as a Pakistani immigrant who had lived and worked in Saudi Arabia for 12 years; the nation of Kuwait itself hosts over 2 million foreign workers.
The new regulation mandates that all visitors landing in Kuwait have to submit to the test upon arrival. They have the option of giving either a blood sample or a saliva swab. Samples will be collected from air travelers in a newly-built section of the Kuwait International Airport. It is unclear how samples will be collected from port and overland arrivals.
The results will be matched against an existing Kuwaiti DNA database of individuals known to have links to terror. The samples will then be transferred for storage to the labs of the General Department of Criminal Evidence which is situated in the suburb of Dajeej, 12 miles south of Kuwait City.
Kuwait has sought to reassure visitors that the DNA samples and results will be dealt with professionally and that clearly-defined protocols have been put in place for their use. For example, the samples will not be used to check for lineage or to screen for diseases. The authorities have also set out penalties for any unauthorized access and for divulging any information that has been collected.
Despite these assurances, individuals, particularly those with young children, might wonder whether they want a foreign government to hold their young ones’ genetic material forever. To add further cause for apprehension to the situation, the Kuwaiti government has been vague when addressing issues of privacy. They have stated only that matters of privacy are their main concern and that they have a strict charter in place to counter those misgivings.
Kuwait was recently voted by expatriates as the worst place in the world to live and work. Whether this new law makes their lives safer or becomes another point of contention remains to be seen.