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80 Indian nurses in limbo without work, residency

KUWAIT: Eighty Indian nurses promised jobs in Kuwait have been stuck here for more than two years due to paperwork and red tape. The group of nurses, all with nursing qualifications from India and recruited by health ministry officials, are living in government housing, but are unable to work because their certifications and licensing have been held up. “We are a group of 80 Indian nurses who came directly from India (Bangalore, Cochin, Delhi and Mumbai) and were hired directly by health ministry representatives after they held interviews from February to April 2015,” said Akhila Kumar, a 29-year-old certified nurse who is acting as the group’s spokesperson.

She said those who passed the written and oral exams – around 1,500 nurses in total – were hired and issued temporary visas that allowed them to enter Kuwait. The 80 nurses were part of that batch. Despite having a legal visa to enter Kuwait, the nurses were prevented from working due to a delay in paperwork. Placed in the nursing accommodation from March 2016, they were initially told to wait while their papers and documents were being processed.

In a few months, many of them got appointment papers. Other waited for a few more months, some a year, but these 80 nurses were left without being appointed. In the nurses’ accommodation, they are fed daily and have no complaints about this, but they need jobs. “Many of those interviewed with us are already working in the ministry. We, the unfortunate 80, are patiently waiting. We are stuck without jobs for the past 2.5 years now,” Akhila lamented.

The nurses allege that the problem stems from corruption in the recruitment process, according to a Kuwait Times source. The source claimed that the jobs of these 80 nurses were taken by another batch of nurses recruited through Dubai. In April 2015, the Indian government banned the recruitment of nurses through private agencies in a bid to stop massive fee requirements and corruption. Working with the Kuwait government, it established six approved agencies that could recruit nurses for Kuwait. But at the same time, some private agencies rerouted recruitment through Dubai. That recruitment process however was not recognized by the Indian and Kuwait governments, but those nurses still bagged jobs in Kuwait.
“We were hired legally in India but because of the hiring in Dubai (which was conducted without the knowledge of the Indian government), some of us who were recruited legally were affected. The corruption issue was exposed, so the government of India and Kuwait immediately blocked the recruitment of the nurses,” the source said. “When that scandal broke out, we were the last few remaining nurses waiting for the final appointment papers. We hope that the government helps us in this time of need,” Akhila appealed.

Another complicating factor that has added to the wait is the new certification rules from the Civil Service Commission. Previously, nurses recruited from abroad could start work while their qualifications went through the certification and licensing process. But in March this year, the CSC changed the rules. New hires must submit transcripts of overall grades of educational qualifications, attest work experience certificates from the foreign affairs ministry in Kuwait and verify certificates from India’s higher education authorities.

Nurses recruited from abroad cannot work in Kuwait for the ministry until all procedures and paperwork are completed. Akhila said the new rules have placed an additional burden on them. “To have degrees verified is a very tedious process because it takes time – at least two or three years – because it will pass through several major authorities: Kuwait’s health, education and foreign ministries. In India we have to submit the papers to the Kuwaiti Embassy, and from there it goes to our respective universities. After that it will be back to the same process to authenticate these certificates,” she explained.

“We are here for the last 2.5 years without work and now because of this new regulation, we are going to start the procedure all over again. We are not earning any money. We were hired in 2015, but are deprived from working and our families,” she added. The nurses have appealed to Kuwaiti and Indian authorities for help, but so far little has been done. “We filed complaints at the Indian Embassy on November 12, 2017 (labor complaint no. 3407), then to the Kuwait Nursing Association. They said they are looking for a rightful solution of our case. But time flies – we are now waiting for 2.5 years; this is injustice,” Akhila said.

A partial reprieve seemed near when more than half of the nurses learned in January that they had been approved for work visas from the health ministry. “Unfortunately, it was blocked by the Civil Service Commission pending some more documentation, which they said is necessary. The CSC wants us to provide documents that are not supposed to apply to us because we were hired in 2015,” Akhila said.

Joby Joseph, another complainant, said most of them are working mothers and need to provide for their families. Many paid recruiters to get a job in Kuwait or will pay out of their first few months’ salaries, an illegal practice that continues despite the Indian government’s efforts to reroute nurses’ recruitment through official government agencies.

“We have families to feed back in India, but we are stuck here for years. We have stayed because we need the job,” Joby said. “This is why we don’t say anything. We want this ordeal to end soon. We are exhausted and in an extreme situation, struggling and in deep frustration. If someone is ill, we cannot go to hospitals because we do not have civil IDs.” Despite arriving legally in the country with visas issued by the ministry, many of the nurses are now ‘illegal’ as they have not received work permits and have not had their visit visas renewed.

The nurses are asking to be appointed as soon as possible and compensated for the years they’ve been stuck without employment in Kuwait. “I am the eldest in my family of four. I told my fiance to wait for me because I wanted to resolve the financial problems of my parents first. If they are okay, then we can get married. That plan is on hold for more than 2.5 years now,” said one of the nurses who didn’t want to give her name for fear of more trouble. “I cannot even provide for myself. I don’t have even one dinar in my pocket. I am really very disappointed to the extent that I cry almost daily and pray that God ends this predicament,” she sobbed.

By Ben Garcia

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