Sunday, January 18, 2015

Article: Deportation Threat Haunts Expats

‘Strangers In Town’ Despite Living Here For Decades: Poll
Arab Times

In this week’s Arab Times online poll, expatriate readers responded to what the term ‘deportation’ has come to mean for them with the majority of voters sharing that it painted Kuwait as an ‘unfriendly country for expatriates.’ Over half of the respondents, 52 percent, felt that the domination and frequency of the term deportation in the country’s civic discourse, presented it as an unfriendly country for expatriate workers. “It has become so common to see the word deportation attached to a new headline in the newspapers”, a reader shared. “I was born in Kuwait thirty years ago, I grew up here and consider it my home, but I will always be a disposable outsider. My family and scores of others like me, who abide by laws and love the country, live with no dignity as we are permanently under the threat of deportation. It seems as though overnight, after living, working and contributing to the development of this country, the lot of us have turned into unwelcome intruders”, a reader commented.

According to the 2014 InterNations’ Expat Insider survey, Kuwait ranked last in the overall country ranking making it the worst place for expatriates to live, owing to its low results for personal happiness and in the Ease of Settling In Index. According to the survey, expats do not think it is easy to settle down, make friends, or feel at home in Kuwait.

Only 5 percent of survey participants feel completely at home there, and only 7 percent find it very easy to make local friends. 27 percent of respondents shared that the word deportation had created an atmosphere of fear for expats. “You can get deported for any trivial misdemeanor here and then be barred from entering the GCC for years, which I think is very unfair. If the government thinks crossing a stop light or having a barbeque on the promenade is sufficient reason to deport people, what is stopping them for deporting those who wear the colour red, or are left handed.

These laws and directives are so arbitrary, and seem to change upon the whim of those in power. The punishment should always match the crime, how can we respect the rule of law if it is so prejudiced?”, an expatriate who has spent over two decades in Kuwait told the Arab Times. “Instead of tackling the issue of visa buying and taking actions against Kuwaitis who are lining up their pockets, expatriates face the brunt of the penalties.

This is very discriminatory and is not going to solve a problem that is so entrenched in society”, a voter shared. Last month, Al-Seyassah reported that several legal practitioners, psychologists and human rights activists had denounced the excessive use of the word ‘deportation’. They noted that expatriates are now living under the atmosphere of instability, and the situation could replicate in poor performance in their places of work due to fear of running into the ‘troubled water’ of deportation.

In the news article, Professor of Sociology at Kuwait University and member of the Association of Sociologists Dr Mohammad Al-Muhaini stated that “it is necessary to respect the country’s law without need for the government to enforce deportation but the manner in which deportation is used contradicts the spirit of institutional and constitutional state”. He also shared that arbitrary deportation based on frivolities was against the principle of human rights and international charters. Also in the report, Attorney Majid Buramiya had stated that deportation should be based on specific fundamentals, rather than just deporting expatriates for the sake of it.

He stressed that trivializing administrative deportation amounts to loss of rights by expatriates, while arbitrary deportation for every simple issue denigrates the law, indicating the implementation of penalties should be gradual.

He affirmed that administrative deportation is only desirable when the affected expatriate actually threatens the national security. Another 7 percent of expatriate readers, responding to the poll, felt that the term lead to respect and obedience for the laws.

Other voters held that ‘Deportation’ was employed to imply seriousness, 3 percent of respondents felt that the term was used just to inform expats that a strict law has been implemented. “I think the government is trying to use deportation to convey how serious they are about a particular issue. Perhaps citations don’t work in a society where wasta is so prevalent, so the authorities have to use severe threats to curb bad behaviour,” another reader shared.

Other voters, 9 percent of those polled, shared that the term suggested that some administrative staff were viewed as more powerful than Kuwait’s judicial system. Another 2 percent were of the opinion that deportation existed only on paper and not in practice.

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