Pandemic Diaries: Judge not

By Jamie Etheridge

The riots at the amnesty shelters in Kuwait over the weekend triggered a firestorm of comments across social media. Some people supported the protestors and others were quick to condemn them. I was surprised at the quick judgments and harsh comments many people made.

Don’t get me wrong, I do not condone violence or unrest in any form. But I also don’t think it is fair or right for those not in that situation to judge the actions of those who are living through such a nightmare. There are now thousands of people, mostly daily wage laborers, stuck in amnesty camps here who have been waiting weeks to go home.

Yes, many of these workers came to Kuwait illegally. They paid thousands for visas but most did so in hopes of finding a job and earning a living. They are victims of human trafficking and circumstance and when they finally registered for an amnesty, they were corralled into camps and kept waiting without any clear timeline of when they would be allowed to return to their home countries.

Imagine the hopelessness, the despair of those sitting for days and weeks without any idea of when they can go home. Imagine the fear of being jobless with no hope of finding work anytime soon. Imagine being unable to feed your children or take care of your parents. Most likely don’t even have money to buy phone credit or basic necessities. Starting from scratch or worse, returning home broke and in debt is a nightmare scenario and for thousands in Kuwait, that is now the reality they are facing.

I recently read on social media a very true analogy – we might all be facing the same storm but we are not all in the same boat. If we are lucky, we have a home to stay safe in, a family to bake for, an income (or at least some part of an income) and a future to look forward to. But that is not true for everyone.

By some estimates at least 250,000 people in Kuwait lost their jobs in the first month of the lockdown and no doubt this number has increased significantly in the second month. Not to mention the thousands of small businesses facing bankruptcy and loss of livelihood.

Before we judge anyone else’s response to the pandemic, it’s important to remember that we are all facing different circumstances. Thankfully governments have announced that they will start the repatriation process and those stuck here can go home and hopefully start the process of rebuilding.

etheridge@kuwaittimes.com