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The Real Issue

Abd Al-Rahman Al-Alyan

Abd Al-Rahman Al-Alyan

It bemuses me how a country that's a pioneer of democracy in the region could be clouded with discrimination. Let's stop acting like everything is rosy and deny the fact that there are ridiculous rules being passed that are discriminating and not thought through in Kuwait. Every time I hear discriminating ideas about stopping expats from driving or having hospital hours for Kuwaitis and other hours for expats or this for Kuwaitis and that for expats, I am outraged. I can't help but wonder why we are then outraged when another country takes a decision to protect its people's rights such as the Indian Embassy fiasco that has become the talk of the town.

Lately the Indian Embassy has put into effect a decision that was taken by the Indian government to protect the rights of its citizens by asking sponsors in the Gulf to pay a guarantee of KD 720 ($2500) for each female Indian domestic worker in an attempt to protect their rights. As a result several members of Parliament have shown their outrage at the decision and are pressuring the government to take counter measures.

It is understandable when the many decent Kuwaiti families are upset over this decision but they should ask why the Indian government is taking such measures.

Let's review some of the reasons that could have caused this: It's a shameful fact that Asian workers are looked down upon by many and mistreated by some in Kuwait. Just look at how Asian domestics are herded like sheep at the airport by Immigration officers who talk to them like slaves or shout abusive remarks at them simply because they didn't understand instructions. It is a fact that many domestics cannot quit their job and work for someone else unless their sponsor allows it as if they are slaves who have to be bought from their sponsor.

Sponsors are not all angels despite their nationality and yes they do take advantage of the sponsorship laws by threatening to call the police on their domestic workers and deporting them - especially visa traders. It is a fact that some employers abuse and do not pay their domestics their full wage and then when it all gets too much for the domestic and runs away, he or she becomes an illegal fugitive and has to be arrested and deported with no pay or indemnities for the period they have served. I urge the many decent Kuwaiti families to be outraged towards the lack of labor laws to protect the rights of such people who are only trying to make a decent living for their families.

Our religion did not teach us to discriminate and there was never a Holy Quran for expats and another for locals. So why are so many of our laws discriminatory yet deemed natural by our lawmakers? Since when does one person need a university degree to drive just because he is an expat? As a matter of fact I don't even understand why many things in Kuwait can only be done by someone who has a university degree such as licensing a real estate company or a classifieds publication etc. It seems very hypocritical when many of our lawmakers are not university graduates and hold much more important roles in our society than a real estate agent.

Speaking of hypocrisy the government is always seeking to decrease the number of expat workers in Kuwait in an attempt to create more opportunities for our home grown talents, but then they create so many regulations to trap them in the country such as having to pay all their traffic fines before they are allowed to travel or having to pay KD10 per day fine for each day after their visa expires. If an expat is fired or if he has escaped for not getting paid, he finds himself in a situation where he has no money to pay and he is trapped in a country where he can't legally get another job to pay or leave. It is an impossible situation to get out.
If you want to decrease the number of expats in the country it would be an idea to allow them to leave and only place ban on someone who is charged with a real criminal offense.

These are the issues and it's time we dealt with them. Sometimes the truth hurts, but we have to face it.

By Abd Al-Rahman Alyan

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This article was published on 14/12/2014