Tuesday , September 26 2017

Dealing with expatriates

Yusuf Awadh Al-Azmi
In recent weeks, there have been a number of strange calls in the country, led by the members of parliament and political activists, calling for mass expulsion of expatriates, and “choking” their livelihoods through measures that will squeeze their pockets.

There are many who believe the population structure of the country has been negatively affected by the huge number of expatriates, which exceeds the number of citizens. Because of this, many are airing their viewpoints concerning this issue to the extent that many among them have expressed irrational suggestions and opinions.

If we study this thorny issue, it will take us no time to realize that one of the main causes for the population structure to tilt towards the expatriates is the huge influx of marginalized and unproductive foreign labor force into the country.

This labor force entered the country innocently after buying entry visas from infamous “visa traders”. However, after they manage to set their feet on this promised paradise, they realize it is actually “hell” represented by their grim broken hopes.

Since the liberation of Kuwait from the Iraqi invasion, there have been sincere voices calling for the restructuring of the population in a suitable and fair manner without violating anyone’s rights. However, there has been some sort of deliberate slackness from the side of consecutive governments in dealing with notorious visa traders every single time.

It is a known fact that visa traders have transgressed this country and violated the rights of the expatriate labor force. Everyone also knows that those behind this evil trade are people with influence and they could also be from the government.

It is time to find rational solutions that will serve justice to people who have been violating the law from the start. You should not be surprised by the number of expatriates who seem to be financially comfortable – their number might not exceed quarter of the total number of expatriates in the country.

The solution starts with pinpointing professions of which expatriates are required in this country; majority of them are technical and sensitive professions. Then a plan must be set to qualify the national labor force to engage in jobs of several specialties that are currently monopolized by expatriates of certain nationalities.

Before we continue in the path towards the right solution, the most important thing is to ensure that any measures adopted will take into consideration the humanitarian and professional principles. In fact, “there is no country in the world that can do without expatriates”.

Another solution is to encourage expatriates or make it easy for them to bring their families by easing the procedures for doing so. Renewal of residence permits must be refrained from until actual work is proven to exist. This will help in protecting the rights of expatriates and, at the same time, achieve the required security of the country. The concerned authorities should set new regulations that will protect both employers and employees. It is irrational to have a labor force of more than one million people who have no actual employment.

No country would want to get rid of productive expatriates. There is always the need for skilled technical workers in any country. Therefore, it is imperative to ease procedures for acquiring visas. Even if the country wants to impose tax, it should be done on a clear basis that protects the rights of expatriates.

Expatriates in Kuwait pay KD 50 annually for health insurance. In most cases, this health insurance does not benefit them in any way. In fact, they have to pay some charges for services in hospitals. So why don’t we enroll them in actual health insurance that benefits those who are sick and have health issues?

In any country, there are fair measures that are in place to deal with expatriates. In fact, some countries grant citizenship to productive expatriates. There is no problem in learning from the experiences of advanced countries in this regard in a manner that will achieve the interests of both the expatriates and the country.

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By Yousef Awad Al-Azmi

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