Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Continued Efforts to Deal with Expats in Kuwait

93,000 illegals in Kuwait?

Minimum wage KD500 for Dependency Visa?

Forced retirements?

During my years in Kuwait, I saw many sorry situations. It doesn’t matter where you are on the social scale, if you are not Kuwaiti, you are expat labor. When management, for whatever reason, wants you to go, you go. People who have lived in Kuwait 50 years, who are elderly, sent home, and sent home quickly, barely time to sell what you can’t take with you, people who have had a health setback and can’t work anymore, handed their papers and told their visas will no longer be valid in 30 days.

There is no point in romanticizing your position. You’re hired help. You think you have friends, but your friends are not going to help you live out your days and die in Kuwait. When your usefulness is over, they want you gone.

We often had to get special permission to bring in professional workers for critical jobs who were over – or even approaching – 60 years old. Long-in-the-tooth is not a highly valued characteristic for imported labor.

Have an exit strategy.

illegals10
The Kuwait Times title for this photo is “Illegals”

Embassies push for deportees’ rights – KD500 minimum wage proposed for dependency visa

From 30 May 2013 Kuwait Times:

KUWAIT: Two Asian embassies complained to Kuwaiti officials about the “arbitrary actions” taken during the deportation of illegal residents and lawbreakers, who were arrested in a series of crackdowns over the past few weeks across the country, a local daily reported yesterday, quoting sources with knowledge of the case.

Nearly 1,260 people of Arab and Asian nationalities have been deported since Kuwait launched crackdowns on traffic violators late last month. The General Traffic Department stated that deportation was enforced in cases of repeat offenders.

Thousands of others have been detained in simultaneous crackdowns targeting people with expired visas or those working in violation of labor regulations. But according to a report published yesterday by Al-Qabas daily, the Ministry of Interior received complaints from the embassies of India and Bangladesh, regarding the swift deportation of a large number of their nationals without them getting the opportunity to receive what they were owed from their employers.

The sources, who spoke to Al-Qabas on the condition of anonymity, said many of the deportees were sent back home through the use of travel documents released by their respective embassies, instead of their original passports that, in most cases, are kept by their sponsors. “The Indian and Bangladeshi embassies are currently taking legal recourse to secure the rights of the deported nationals, including their original passports”, the sources said.

Many expatriates arrested during the recent traffic crackdowns reportedly remain in custody, as their respective embassies refuse to grant authorities travel documents on the grounds that their visas are still valid. In that regard, the sources revealed the ministry had been trying to reach the employers in order to retrieve the passports of the soon-to-be-deported expatriates.

Meanwhile, a senior Interior Ministry official defended Kuwait’s right to deport illegal residents or foreigners who break the law. “It is the right of every country to deport expatriates who violate its residency laws or its laws in general, or take legal action against them, in order to maintain safety and security, in line with human rights principles,” Assistant Director of the ministry’s General Training Department, Brigadier General Adel Al-Saadoun, was quoted by Al-Jarida yesterday. He made these comments at a workshop on Tuesday, organized by the International Organization for Migration office in Kuwait.

In other news, Undersecretary Assistant for Citizenship and Passports Affairs, Major General Sheikh Faisal Al-Nawaf Al-Sabah, during a meeting with directors of migration departments in Kuwait, called for “tougher procedures” with regard to the issuance of visitor visas, so marginal labourers would not be able to gain access into the country.

He made the demand amid a discussion on efforts to address Kuwait’s demographic imbalance, which senior ministry officials described as “a main duty” for his department. “Maj Gen Al-Sabah told the directors that labor forces in countries having internal struggles should not be able to move to Kuwait, and that Kuwait should not become a shelter for them and their problems,” said sources quoted in an Al-Rai report yesterday.

Nationals of Syria, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Yemen are currently banned from obtaining visas to work in or visit Kuwait. In that regard, Maj Gen Al-Sabah said the lifting of the ban on them in the future must be coupled with controls to regulate their entrance and prevent the country’s demographic imbalance from getting worse, said the sources, who spoke to Al-Rai on the condition of anonymity.

The meeting also discussed other suggestions aimed at reducing the number of expatriate workers in Kuwait, including Maj Gen Al-Sabah’s intentions to “prepare a memorandum about the benefits of raising the minimum cap for foreigners applying for dependency visas for relatives”. Currently, such visas can be obtained as long as a supporter earns a minimum of KD250 a month, but the Undersecretary Assistant reportedly suggested during the meeting that the cap be raised to KD500.

“Maj Gen Al-Sabah questioned the capability of a man who receives KD250 a month to meet the educational, health and living requirements of a family with children,” the sources explained. They added that the senior official also plans to refer a letter to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor, recommending that it suspend issuing work visas to holders of commercial visit visas.

Minister of Social Affairs and Labor Thekra Al-Rashidi announced two months ago a plan to deport 100,000 foreigners every year, as part of a strategy to reduce the number of expatriates in the Gulf state by one million over a period of 10 years. Criticism sparked by the lack of details about the proposed plan prompted the minister to later clarify that the plan targeted illegal residents, whose numbers have reached 93,000, as per official statistics released last year. Kuwait is home to 2.6 million expatriates who account for 68 percent of the country’s total population of 3.8 million.

Meanwhile, minister Al-Rashidi released an order – with effect from July 1, 2013 – to terminate the services of expatriate employees who have worked for at least 30 years in the Social Affairs and Labor Ministry. According to sources familiar with the issue, the ministry has already started the process to end the services of nearly 70 foreigners by the beginning of July. The decision is in accordance with a government plan that requires forcing Kuwaitis who have held government posts for 30 years, including senior officials, into retirement. According to official statistics, published by Al-Qabas yesterday, 138 senior officials, including 11 women, will be subjected to this regulation. – Al-Qabas, Al-Jarida & Al-Rai

In a related article, measures are gaining support for withdrawing Kuwait citizenship from naturalized citizens for different reasons; below another article from the 30 May 2013 Kuwait Times Foreign spouses married to Kuwaitis watch these developments with trepidation.

MPs want citizenship revoked for breaching security – Long-time employees won’t be forced out

KUWAIT: A number of MPs yesterday proposed that Kuwaiti nationality should be withdrawn from naturalized Kuwaitis who abuse the country’s internal security or insult the country’s figures. The lawmakers also proposed that all benefits given to the naturalized person proven to have breached national security should be withdrawn and this measure should include withdrawing the citizenship of other people who gained the citizenship as a result of naturalizing that person. The proposal also suggests that people who applied for Kuwaiti citizenships and carried out similar offenses should have their applications rejected even if they fulfilled all the conditions for nationality.

To become effective, the proposal must be adopted by the concerned Assembly committees, mainly the legal and legislative and the interior and defense committees and then passed by the National Assembly and eventually accepted by the government. The proposal comes amid protests by opposition activists and former MPs and a crackdown on opposition tweeters – several of whom have received jail terms on charges of insulting the Amir. Meanwhile, MP Faisal Al-Duwaisan yesterday asked Justice Minister Sharida Al-Meosharji about implementing a law passed a few months ago to establish the Anti-Corruption Authority. Besides the corruption authority, the legislation also calls for wealth disclosure of ministers, MPs and top government officials. Duwaisan asked the minister about the steps that have been taken to implement the law and the obstacles facing it.

MP Yacoub Al-Sane said yesterday that he was informed by Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al- Sabah that top bureaucrats who served 30 years and above will not be forced to resign as has been published. The lawmaker said he told the premier that forcing such top officials to step down is “unconstitutional” and the prime minister replied that the government will not force them to resign but will grant them incentives and benefits to encourage them to resign. In the meantime, MP Saud Al- Huraiji questioned Finance Minister Mustafa Al-Shamali about the charges collected from expatriates for the health insurance scheme and other charges since applying the law in 1999. Huraiji said that he learned that KD522 million have been collected since that year but the ministry of finance has failed to utilize the funds in proper channels. He asked the minister if the ministry has any plan to spend the funds in the right way.

By B Izzak, Staff Writer

‘Hundreds’ deported for traffic offences

KUWAIT: Kuwait has deported hundreds of expats for traffic offences in the past month, a report said yesterday, drawing condemnation from a human rights group.

The Al-Anbaa newspaper cited a senior interior ministry official as saying that as many as 1,258 foreigners have been deported for traffic violations since a crackdown began about a month ago.

Foreign residents caught driving without a licence, using their cars to carry paying passengers, jumping a red light for a second time, or breaking the speed limit by more than 40 km per hour, can be deported without a court order. The Kuwait Society for Human Rights called on the government to halt the deportations describing them as “oppressive”. “The oppressive measure against expatriates… violates the basic principles of human rights,” it said.

The group warned that the measure could tarnish the state’s image abroad at a time when its human rights record is under scrutiny. Kuwait is home to 2.6 million expatriates who form 68 percent of the country’s 3.8 million population.

Kuwaiti nationals who commit similar offences have their vehicles seized and can be sent to court. Last month, Minister of Social Affairs and Labour Thekra Al-Rasheedi said the state plans to deport around 100,000 expatriates every year for the next decade to reduce the number of foreigners living in the Gulf state by one million. She did not say what measures she would adopt to carry out the plan.

Foreigners need to hold a university degree, earn KD 400 a month and have lived in Kuwait for at least two years to be eligible to apply for a driver’s licence, under a decision issued nearly a decade ago. —AFP

May 30, 2013 Posted by | Aging, Bureaucracy, Community, Cross Cultural, Cultural, ExPat Life, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Middle East, Qatar, Social Issues, Values, Work Related Issues | , , , | Leave a comment

Making Idols

A confluence of events happened at a period in my life when I was paying attention, and those things coming together have influenced me enormously. The first was participation in a bible study conducted in a branch of Christianity not my own, whose dogma is occasionally repellant and repugnant to me, but whose study of the chapter in the bible is thorough. The second was my move back to the Islamic world, and my choice to study Arabic at the Qatar Center for the Presentation of Islam.

In both cases, what I learned is that we have more in common than we have differences. I also learned that if we focus on the differences, it can be devastating.

Both groups know the Bible. My Moslem sisters knew the bible better than I did, and when discussing such issues as covering hair and wearing abaya, could quote me verses from my own book which re-inforced their argument. It was mortifying – and edifying.

My Baptist friends also surprise me. For every one who rails against gay marriage or ordination of women, there was another who would laugh and quote scripture saying “did you notice the same penalty for a woman who cuts her hair? or wears pants in public?” I learned a lot about my own religion, my own beliefs, and the goodness of others by my interactions with both these groups.

images

One of the differences in the Moslem world was that many houses I went into (I was honored to be invited into their homes) were very plain. The furniture might be basic or elaborate, but often, the walls were bare. Maybe there might be a calligraphy with a Quranic verse on the wall – that was it. No paintings, especially no human figures – no idols, no images.

In my house, I am surrounded by images, photos, paintings, weavings – they give me joy, but I do not worship them. They are not idols, they are merely art or family – things that make me smile. I distinguish between idols and gods. Yesterday’s reading from Deuteronomy sticks with me, however, and I can hear my sweet teachers at QCPI saying to me “But doesn’t it say in Deuteronomy 4 that you are to have no idols?”

Deuteronomy 4:25-31

25 When you have had children and children’s children, and become complacent in the land, if you act corruptly by making an idol in the form of anything, thus doing what is evil in the sight of the Lord your God, and provoking him to anger, 26I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that you will soon utterly perish from the land that you are crossing the Jordan to occupy; you will not live long on it, but will be utterly destroyed.

27The Lord will scatter you among the peoples; only a few of you will be left among the nations where the Lord will lead you. 28There you will serve other gods made by human hands, objects of wood and stone that neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell. 29From there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find him if you search after him with all your heart and soul. 30In your distress, when all these things have happened to you in time to come, you will return to the Lord your God and heed him. 31Because the Lord your God is a merciful God, he will neither abandon you nor destroy you; he will not forget the covenant with your ancestors that he swore to them.

May 30, 2013 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Civility, Community, Cross Cultural, Doha, ExPat Life, Faith, Kuwait, Lectionary Readings, Living Conditions, Pensacola, Qatar, Spiritual | Leave a comment

The Lord Laughs at the Wicked

When I start to fret about those in high places who oppress the poor and the workers, whose lives are so far from worrying about a roof over their head and food to eat that they will pass still laws further oppressing the poor and homeless, I take consolation in this psalm.

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The Pensacola City Council is passing a draconian measure against the homeless. I’ve been so proud of Pensacola, and the citizen response to the homeless, the beds Pensacola provides, the meals the citizens, through a variety of church and social agencies, hand out. Their response is humane, and compassionate.

The homeless are attracted by the moderate climate; they are here in droves. They panhandle at the intersections, they approach you at downtown attractions. They often have dogs. For the most part, they greet people cheerfully or respectfully, and they aren’t aggressive.

helping_the_homeless

They are, in truth, a kind of plague on Pensacola, but as a traveler, I have brushed my teeth in many a restroom, changed my clothes, even had to rise out a coffee stained outfit before my next flight once – these are things for which the homeless will be charged with an offense against the law. If I were without a place for the night, I might look for a safe public restroom in which to sleep, especially if I had a child with me, as so many women did when I worked with homeless women.

I understand the problem.

But I also understand the desperation of those who have little, and that very little – a public restroom, a safe place to sleep outdoors – are being taken away from them by this statute. It’s heartless, and if there is truly an accounting at the end of our lives, and an afterlife, I fear for those who put additional burdens on the poorest of the poor.

Psalm 37

Of David.
1 Do not fret because of the wicked;
do not be envious of wrongdoers,
2 for they will soon fade like the grass,
and wither like the green herb.

3 Trust in the Lord, and do good;
so you will live in the land, and enjoy security.
4 Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.

5 Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him, and he will act.
6 He will make your vindication shine like the light,
and the justice of your cause like the noonday.

7 Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him;
do not fret over those who prosper in their way,
over those who carry out evil devices.

8 Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath.
Do not fret—it leads only to evil.
9 For the wicked shall be cut off,
but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.

10 Yet a little while, and the wicked will be no more;
though you look diligently for their place, they will not be there.
11 But the meek shall inherit the land,
and delight in abundant prosperity.

12 The wicked plot against the righteous,
and gnash their teeth at them;
13 but the Lord laughs at the wicked,
for he sees that their day is coming.

14 The wicked draw the sword and bend their bows
to bring down the poor and needy,
to kill those who walk uprightly;
15 their sword shall enter their own heart,
and their bows shall be broken.

16 Better is a little that the righteous person has
than the abundance of many wicked.
17 For the arms of the wicked shall be broken,
but the Lord upholds the righteous.

18 The Lord knows the days of the blameless,
and their heritage will abide for ever;
19 they are not put to shame in evil times,
in the days of famine they have abundance.

20 But the wicked perish,
and the enemies of the Lord are like the glory of the pastures;
they vanish—like smoke they vanish away.

21 The wicked borrow, and do not pay back,
but the righteous are generous and keep giving;
22 for those blessed by the Lord shall inherit the land,
but those cursed by him shall be cut off.

23 Our steps* are made firm by the Lord,
when he delights in our* way;
24 though we stumble,* we* shall not fall headlong,
for the Lord holds us* by the hand.

25 I have been young, and now am old,
yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken
or their children begging bread.
26 They are ever giving liberally and lending,
and their children become a blessing.

27 Depart from evil, and do good;
so you shall abide for ever.
28 For the Lord loves justice;
he will not forsake his faithful ones.

The righteous shall be kept safe for ever,
but the children of the wicked shall be cut off.
29 The righteous shall inherit the land,
and live in it for ever.

30 The mouths of the righteous utter wisdom,
and their tongues speak justice.
31 The law of their God is in their hearts;
their steps do not slip.

32 The wicked watch for the righteous,
and seek to kill them.
33 The Lord will not abandon them to their power,
or let them be condemned when they are brought to trial.

34 Wait for the Lord, and keep to his way,
and he will exalt you to inherit the land;
you will look on the destruction of the wicked.

35 I have seen the wicked oppressing,
and towering like a cedar of Lebanon.*
36 Again I* passed by, and they were no more;
though I sought them, they could not be found.

37 Mark the blameless, and behold the upright,
for there is posterity for the peaceable.
38 But transgressors shall be altogether destroyed;
the posterity of the wicked shall be cut off.

39 The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord;
he is their refuge in the time of trouble.
40 The Lord helps them and rescues them;
he rescues them from the wicked, and saves them,
because they take refuge in him.

May 30, 2013 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Charity, Civility, Community, Crime, Cultural, ExPat Life, Faith, Financial Issues, Interconnected, Law and Order, Leadership, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Pensacola, Political Issues, Social Issues, Values | | Leave a comment