Kuwait: Crackdown on expats - Indian Embassy officials clarify situation
Wilson Saldanha, Shirthady/Kuwait
Daijiworld Media Network - Kuwait
Kuwait, Jun 11: There was a feeling that Kuwait was the best place for expatriates where they can earn and save more as compared to other Gulf countries. Cheaper petrol, luxury cars, world’s cheapest electricity, free local calls with annual subscription, free incoming calls on mobiles, uninterrupted water supply, no taxes….. The list is very long. But with the recent day’s developments, Expatriates are having a nightmare with lots of checkings in every corner, restrictions on daily routines, crackdown on illegal residents, deportations etc. It started off a couple of months ago in neighboring Saudi Arabia. Due to some facts and lots of rumours, expatriates in Kuwait especially Indians are scared to go out of their homes. The normal routine is completely interrupted and the roads, shopping malls and supermarkets looks half empty even during weekends. Some blame government and others their respective embassies.
To bring the fact to the public, Indian Embassy Kuwait arranged a press meet and many media personnel attend the same. India's Ambassador to Kuwait Satish C Mehta, Vidhu P Nair, the Charge'D Affairs of Indian Embassy Kuwait, Balram Kumar Upadhyay, Counsellor (Consular & Chief Welfare Officer) and Vinod Kumar first secretary (Information, Press & Cultural wing) explained the situation and asked the Indians not to spread the rumours.
Generally Kuwait officials are targeting work, residency and general law and order violators as well as those engaged in illegal activities. There is no need of panic if the stay is legal. According to the Embassy statement, India’s Ambassador to Kuwait Satish C Mehta and other officials are in regular contact with the higher officials of Kuwait Government and regularly discuss the present situation of Indians in Kuwait.
It is not fact that only Indians are targeted. Indians have a good reputation in Kuwait and they respect Indian community. "We should abide by the rules of the country we live when we are outside our country. The Government is mainly targeting the expatriates who are in Kuwait without any legal visa or residents and the ones with domestic residence and working outside. In Kuwait, the 20 number resident holders (domestic servants) are allowed to work only in their sponsor’s house and not allowed to work outside which is considered as illegal. As Government wants to stop this, a massive crackdown was arranged. Even though it looks like officers are targeting Indians, the fact is Indians are the largest community in Kuwait with greater percentage of total expatriate population. Indians are less than 28% of the total number of expatriates deported this year. In 2013 total number of Indians deported are less than 3,000 out of which about 1,500 were due to the recent raids and others are due to routine checkings and other offences. The concern about the present situation of Indians is serious, genuine and valued," they said.
The Indian Embassy has heard about mishandling while checking (such as forgotten documents, withdrawal of legal licenses etc) which needs to be brought to notice. The ambassador urged the Indian community to inform embassy along with exact date, time, location and incident with a verbal and written complaint. This correct information is required as Kuwait has more than 60 police stations. If the case is genuine, Embassy can contact government officials and arrange for the release of innocents. Without any basic information and proper complaints, the Embassy cannot approach any government officials in general guess. In case of arrests due to any illegal activities/stay, Embassy cannot do anything as all residents should aware of the rules in Kuwait.
Embassy officials have visited the detention and deportation centers and met many Indians and checked the conditions there. They have met more than 70 detainees this week and they have not received any complaints about the food, water or living conditions. The fact is not as the rumors spread on the condition of detainees. Even though the government can’t supply the choice of food due to different nationalities, sufficient food is provided to inmates. There are 24 hours doctors and other facilities. When visited detention centre, it was found that the inmates were only 80% of total capacity and nothing was over filled/crowded. Indian Embassy is regularly visiting these detention and deportation centers. Indian Government has put efforts to help the Indians who were deported to far cities of India by making arrangements to send them to the closest location of their native. About 20% of total detainees are ladies.
Normally the detainees are deported with their passport. In case of absence of passport the deportation is done with the travel documents issued by Embassy. Even though the crackdown was heavily done, the embassy has issued only 930 travel documents till date in 2013 which was 460 in 2012 for the same period. This month around 140 travel documents were issued. Even though Embassy is requesting officials to give time to legalize the stay or go back, it is important to respect visa procedures of Kuwait. As of now Indians are the largest community in Kuwait with increase of approximately 1,000 new entries every week. An illegal entry increases the number of Indians and forces the officials to attack on community. Indian embassy has conveyed the panic of Indian to very high level officials and trying hard for the solution to protect innocents. With a promise of support to Indian community upon the proper complaints with details of incident the press meet was dispersed with a note to spread the fact to the community.
Recently I had received an email mentioning it from IDAK (Indian Dentists' Alliance in Kuwait) on this issue suggesting the dos and don’ts for a peaceful leaving. Following are some of the suggestions mentioned in the mail along with some additions from my side.
The following precautions should be taken to avoid unnecessary troubles:
• Carry civil ID at all times even if visiting your neighbor house or to the car or attached shopping store below the building.
• Ensure Civil id address and place of residence match.
• Don't be over zealous to provide information. If authorities ask for your civil ID give your civil ID only. Not your spouses and children and driving licenses and passports. High probability of confiscating under the pretext that you don't need more than one license in a family.
• On house to house checking the authorities will be accompanied by the Harris (building watch man). Do not resist or avoid opening doors. They are warranted to check officially and they will break it down.
• Stay calm and respond to question. Do not try to provoke them in any way.
• When Traveling in a car with family carry proper documentation of the entire Family including small children such as Valid Car Registration (check expiry date on your vehicle registration), Civil ID, Driving License, Affidavit of marriage or certificate copy.
• Avoid transporting friends or family whose civil id doesn’t match your residential address. That is perceived as taxing.
• Avoid car pooling that is perceived as taxing.
• Friends traveling to the airport - take a taxi instead of a asking a friend to drop you - Bon voyage.
• Avoid monthly shopping strategies. Large bulk shopping is pointed out as purchases for resale.
• Shop at malls and supermarkets as small expatriate shopping centers are prime spots for checks
Traffic and other Violations
• Don't violate traffic rules.
• Red Light = Stop
• Yellow Light you can go carefully
• Green - go - start off slowly maxing to 40-60 km only within that area
• At red even if a cop is controlling and asks you to go and that it’s ok as he is controlling - watch out and go.
• Don't jump lanes without signaling.
• No mobile phones while driving and walking on the street.
• Avoid driving under influence of alcohol/ other substances
• Park your cars only in the areas allotted for parking.
• Never park in the area reserved for differently-abled persons.
• House wives/dependants with licenses beware - they are invalid once you start to work.
• License received as students are invalid once you start to work.
• Husband dropping wives or vice versa working for two different sponsors carry copy of marriage certificate as proof of relationship.
• Private baby sittings, tuition classes, gyms or any other training classes without license are illegal in Kuwait.
• Avoid late night parties and large noice.
• Avoid alcohol, drugs or any other illegal things.
• Those with pending dues with MEW, telephones, internet and cell phones-pay-up and keep your services - They may be planning on raising the charges and fines.
• Regularly check and pay any traffic fines in time and specially befor travelling out of country.
• VOIP calls are illegal. Avoid them for the time being. Skype, viber, internet callling, mobile dialers on the phones are being inspected.
• They may also use IP addresses to identify phones using calling dialer.
• Avoid unnecessary travels. Avoid bringing any relatives and friends from India for the time being.
• Last but not the least, be in touch with the Indian Embassy if you find any harassment or cases of innocents falling into wrong hands. When someone is arrested, let them ask for consular access. Even friends can inform the incident to the Embassy so that they can handle genuine cases.
It is better to be aware of the rules of the country we stay. Be legal and be safe. Let us spread this word to everyone for a peaceful living.