MP wants to ban expats from hiring helpers

Al Hashem’s comment follows gruesome case where maid’s body was left in freezer by Lebanese employer who fled

Manama: A Kuwaiti lawmaker has warned she would file a motion in parliament to ban foreigners from hiring domestic helpers.

“All the problems we have are caused by their mistreatment of domestic helpers,” MP Safa Al Hashem posted on her Twitter account. “The latest example is how an expatriate and his foreign wife killed their helper, placed her in a freezer and fled the country,” she said, referring to the criminal case that shook Kuwait last week.

Kuwaiti authorities said the body of the Filipino woman was found in a freezer in an empty apartment.

The apartment was vacant since November 2016 when its tenants, a Lebanese man and his Syrian wife, left Kuwait and the door remained locked ever since.

The gruesome discovery compounded tense situation between the Philippines and Kuwait amid open accusations by President Rodrigo Duterte that Filipinos were being mistreated in Kuwait.

Figures indicate that around 252,000 Filipinos, including 170,000 household helpers, live in Kuwait. More than 10,000 are staying illegally in the country.

Al Hashem, the only woman in the 50-member parliament elected on November 26, has been spearheading a populist campaign to limit the number of foreigners in Kuwait through often controversial suggestions to address the “ominous” demographic imbalance.

Her plan not to allow foreigners to recruit helpers is the latest in moves targeting expatriates.

Last year, she led lawmakers calling for taxing remittances by expatriates, arguing it would limit the amount of cash transferred out of the country, and that money would instead be “re-invested” in the local economy, bringing in extra revenues for the state.

The call was resisted by other lawmakers who assailed it as “nonsensical” and argued it would have negative impacts on both Kuwaitis and foreigners and would exacerbate negative sentiment within the community.

In April, she called for a one-year halt in issuing driving licences to expatriates. The suspension should be renewed regularly until authorities find solutions for traffic congestion and major road works are completed, she said.

An expatriate must not have more than one car, the lawmaker added in her proposal.

At one time, she said foreigners should be made to pay for using Kuwait’s roads.

Her proposals have been timidly supported by some lawmakers, but strongly opposed by the general public.

Foreigners make up around 70 per cent of Kuwait’s total population of about 4.4 million.

Although calls for addressing the demographic imbalance as a security, social and economic threat in Kuwait have been issued at several levels, Al Hashem has often waded into standoffs with several groups for making foreigners, the most vulnerable segment of society, assume responsibility for the situation.

However, Al Hashem refuted the criticism, stating that her stance was based on her patriotism and not on xenophobia.

“I have full respect for expatriates in Kuwait, but I have to sound the alarm regarding the demographic imbalance when citizens are outnumbered by foreigners two to one,” she said.

“Regardless of how wealthy a country is, the overuse of its services inevitably drains its resources. There are many unskilled and untrained foreigners doing odd jobs in Kuwait. I do not see why the expatriates get upset. I do understand that anything that comes free is received with great pleasure. However, there are realities on the ground.”


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