Stop discrimination against expatriates

By Nejoud Al-Yagout

Lately, there are many proposals in place which discriminate against foreigners. The latest discriminatory law comes from the ministry of health, as mentioned in a report in Kuwait Times on Sunday, May 7: As per the report, “the ministry of health on Saturday issued a decision imposing a fee of KD 20 per bag of blood for expat patients if they have legal residency and KD 40 for visitors. The ministry also increased charges on 37 laboratory tests, ranging from half a dinar to KD 15 for residents and between KD 5 and KD 70 for visitors. Emergency cases are exempt from the charges.”

After all the discriminatory rhetoric in the last few years, from a member of parliament who stated that expatriates should be taxed for the air they breathe to proposals to have residents over 60 pay exorbitant sums to reside in our country, we have now decided that it is time to make the lives of expats even more difficult by charging them for health woes, yet another example of our incessant desire to remind expatriates that they are not Kuwaiti and they never will be.

If the health services have become a burden on the ministry, then perhaps we need to raise fees for everyone — locals and residents alike (and take into account those who cannot afford to pay). This division between locals and expats is becoming tiresome at best and is dangerous, because it is galvanizing a mindset which is poisoning our society.

Thankfully, the Kuwait Progressive Movement has criticized this latest move by the ministry. “The Progressive Movement said in a statement the decision discriminates between patients on the basis of religion, creed, social class and gender. The movement claimed “class-based discrimination has increased rapidly in state institutions”, adding that the level of discrimination reached in the country is “unprecedented”.

This nationalistic rhetoric goes against the values of Kuwait’s founders and even against the constitution. It contradicts our spiritual and humanitarian values. Kuwait is not just for Kuwaitis. Everyone who works and lives here has the right to be treated with dignity and respect. All foreigners should be made to feel welcome. One of the most apt quotes comes from Mahatma Gandhi: “No culture can live, if it attempts to be exclusive.” Our exclusivity will be the end of us. And who will lament other than our sorry selves when we bring about our downfall?

Instead of charging expatriates extra to live here, why can’t we focus on education, tourism, entertainment, human rights and our infrastructure? Why can’t we bridge divides and find ways to reward all the people who have left their homes to make Kuwait a better place? Our ancestors hail from different nations who came together to build this nation. And as Martin Luther King Jr said: “We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.” That boat, or dhow for that matter, is Kuwait. And we can enhance our minds and hearts when we realize that Kuwait, a microcosm of the world, has a place for every single person who inhabits its borders.

We need to stop discriminating against expats, for they are our brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, coworkers and so much more. Kuwait’s beauty lies in its diversity and if we want to ascend, we must come together with expatriates and build a society which transforms the lives of all for the better, regardless of nationality, religion, gender, skin color, ethnicity or social and financial status. Kuwait is for all of us. All. Of. Us. And the time is now to accept that.

O brothers and sisters, expatriates are in a very precarious position now, so the onus is on locals to speak up and defend them and include them in our decision-making. And with another election coming up, let us remember to choose well. As Suzy Kassem warns the world: “Choose a leader who will invest in building bridges, not walls… Morality, not corruption. Intellectualism and wisdom, not ignorance… Love, not hate. Convergence, not segregation. Tolerance, not discrimination… Environmental improvement and preservation, not destruction. Truth, not lies.” Let us find our common ground and walk on it peacefully. Together. As one nation composed of many. Enough discrimination. Enough. Viva l’amore!

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