As if expats have it easy. Already away from family and friends, from a country they call their home, and sometimes from stability and security, expatriates fish out the best (sometimes the worst, unknowingly) job opportunities to make ends meet. Put aside language barriers, differences in norms and cultures, and shameless, overt racism, expats don't always have it easy.
In Kuwait, out of the estimated 4.5 million residents, 70 percent are expats, which barely leaves close to 1.5 million nationals. This fact provoked a kind of hatred in Kuwaiti lawmaker Safa al-Hashem, who launched yet another attack on expats based in the Gulf country earlier this week. The MP has long been criticized for what has been described as "hate speech" targeting foreigners working in the state.
In an interview with al-Rai newspaper, al-Hashem called for the urgent implementation of a bill that proposes charging expats for walking on streets and driving on highways. She didn't stop at that. The legislator went as far as saying expats should be charged for "breathing Kuwaiti air."
Al-Hashem, the only Kuwaiti female MP, has long expressed anti-migrant views, yet vehemently denies accusations of being racist. Instead, she claims she's only trying to balance the Kuwaiti to expat ratio in order to solve issues related to the country's chronic demographic imbalance.
This isn't the first an "anti-expat statement" by al-Hashem made headlines. In previous years, the lawmaker had proposed methods to "purify" Kuwait using methods including heavily taxing expats, revoking the citizenship of naturalized widows, and banning foreigners from driving.
She also backed a now-passed controversial law that increased health care fees for expats across the country.
In one of her most recent statements, she said: "It is unacceptable for citizens to feel like strangers in their own country, as statistics show that expatriates constitute 70 percent of the population." She then clarified her controversial comments, explaining she isn't calling for the mass deportation of expats who contribute to the development of the country, "but the marginalized laborers who negatively affect State services."
The MP also accused the country's current Minister of Social Affairs Sa'ad Al-Kharaaz of allowing the continued unmonitored recruitment of foreigners.
Many Kuwaitis are against the lawmaker's perspective on the matter and deem her comments racist and derogatory. Others believe expats shouldn't take all the blame for straining the already inadequate public services.
After all, no foreigner is allowed into the country except if they are granted a visa sponsored by a national under the region's heavily criticized kafala system. Therefore, those arriving to work in the Gulf state are summoned there and the government has control over their entrance and can track them down if their presence is illegal.
Kuwait is currently the worst country in the world for expats
Racist comments similar to the ones made by al-Hashem are negatively affecting the lives of migrants in Kuwait — which was recently ranked as the world's worst country for expats for the second year in a row.
The ranking was revealed in InterNations' 2019 Expat Insider report. The findings placed Kuwait as the worst country for expats in several categories including "sense of alienation and making friends." The study - which covers 64 countries - revealed that the state is the "country expats would recommend the least."
This is the fifth time Kuwait features on InterNations' list. The nation was among the least favored countries from 2014 to 2016, the second-worst destination for expatriates in 2017, and the top worst in 2018.