Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Deportation Center

I'm not sure about this but my friends tell that there's a lawyer who comes on the Arabic TV and talks about issues in Kuwait. And apparently he talked about the deportation center being some sort of 5 star hotel and "why should Kuwait treat these dishonest, bad people so well?"

Now I don't know if my friends were exaggerating but I do know that International authorities are shown a very nice looking place that is claimed to be the deportation center. Well I've seen the deportation center myself. Let me tell you about it...

It's tucked away by the UN roundabout. We only found it after - no joke - 3 full evenings of searching. The police of various districts would not tell us where it really was, sending us all the way to Jleeb, then to Salmiya, then to different areas of Shuwaikh and back again. When we finally found it we asked a couple of ppl there, "is this the deportation center?" No - they said and gave us other areas to go to.

Why lie to us? Well that question was answered when eventually we got permission to go inside. It was horrific. Women line the entire floor. They sleep on filthy matresses on a very wet floor. There is a feel of gloom and despair in the air. This doesn't look like anything built in Kuwait - it's like a third world prison or slum. Rooms full of young women, guarded by only men? Shouldn't conservative parties in Kuwait have something to say about this? We quickly communicated with some of the women in there to get stories. Often, concerned individuals on the outside had bought tickets for some ladies inside to fly home. The LAZY officials in charge had taken the tickets and then not bothered to arrange for the ladies to be taken to the airport. We heard of at least 3 girls that had had tickets BOUGHT for them to leave but they were still there. So in this so-called deportation center, there are women who have been here for months. One had even started taking off her clothes and walking around nude because she had mentally 'lost it'.

You might ask, are the officials really like that? When I walked in, these 'officials' sat with their bare feet up on desks, smoking, drinking their tea and talking to their friends. They paid little or no attention to the timid ppl that came for their help. Indians, Bengalis, Filipinos, Sri lankans, with their heads bowed in servant like respect waited in line for these men to pause in between some hilarious joke they were making. When the officials did pause it was only to yell and shout in anger at those waiting. I was no exception. They gestured at me as if I were a dog, not even looking at me but looking directly above my head. Immediately I felt something inside I had never felt before. A true sense of shame and inferiority. Forget my education, forget my qualifications - I was a hindi, nothing more. They yelled at me, called my dark African friend a 'Sudani' etc. and humiliated us while they laughed on and finally told us to go away. I felt worse than an animal.

Later when I had time to think, I realise that this is something that even sympathetic citizens can never understand. This level of inferiority and unworthiness can only be experienced by expats even those who have served and loved Kuwait to our utmost. Even I only experienced it for a month or so while visiting the deportation center, but many expats go through this daily as labourers, in construction, as drivers, when dealing with the police.

Driving home was surreal - almost like 'Alice of Wonderland' as we passed massive beautiful government buildings, exquisitely designed villas, malls constructed to look like some fantasy escape, shiny gleaming cars of every make model and colour weaving back and forth on the road and a smart new skyline. It didn't make sense to me. How can so much achieve so little?

Well anyways, I just went home and tried to get over the feeling that I was something dirty. It takes a while, trust me. As to the deportation center - it's still there. And if you still believe that there's a 5 star hotel out there, treating these ladies with dignity, please do visit the center yourself.


Anonymous said...

This post was a bit vague in regards to the official name of the building and its purpose.

But overall, the story is really .. I mean what can I tell you, it's shit!! What you saw in there and all those women forced to live in that center that way.

You mention why Kuwait, with all its fancy buildings, acts like a third world country. It IS a third world country (having money doesn't change anything) and what you have seen is but one aspect.

If you'd visit the centers for orphans and for physically & mentally challenged kids, you'd find kids surrounded by filth on all levels. It's shameful.

The state DOES provide the money for great facilities and services for all these centers, but somehow it does not get spent on those who deserve it.

Corruption all the way man.

Anonymous said...

If you want to change things, you must know how to operate in Kuwait. When speaking to the masses (through this blog or in actuality) you must appeal to people's humanity and sense of justice - and you're doing a great job at that.

However, do not expect things to change upon visiting centers and trying to speak to the barely human officials in charge.

To change things you must be loud and tough - obnoxiously so, unfortunately - and seek acquaintances who are in positions that allows them to change things.

It's freaky I know, but you will never officially change things if you're polite, orderly, and civil.

Helps if you're a local with tendencies to shake things up.

Anonymous said...

what was the purpose of your visit?

nabeel said...

Hi Guys id like to address all three points.

Anon1: Most of the names are in Arabic and therefore completely beyond me. It is located near the UN roundabout and has a large handicap sign ACROSS the road from it. If youre there youll know what im talking about.

Its heartbreaking to hear that even for the orphans and challenged children, justice is not done. It's unthinkable but do you know that in Al Razi hospital - the woman are not provided with shampoo soap, the basic necessities? instead of pads they are given diapers. When they leave - if they need crutches - its not provided. TECHNICALLY- the hospital should be providing all these things but we have been doing it for months now. crutches are 5 KD each but the social worker has stopped giving them to these cases.

As you say - corruption all the way.

Anon 2- Thank you so much for your encouragement. Can you believe that even these three comments on one blog post is some of the MOST response I get when this issue comes up? But thank God. You are right when you say that we have to be pushy and throw our weight around. I myself have found that if you do things politely and courteously, you are seen almost as a servant. Instead throw around big names, big embassies and talk loudly.

But then imagine person A, has a good heart but has to be a jerk to get justice done. Once he has got justice done, is he as a jerk likely to continue caring about things like justice - or has he become one of them - loud brash and concerned only with wastha and names? Will there be any 'good guys' left if this is how we fight? Its just a thought - not a disagreement.

Anon3 - the purpose of my visit was to find out the whereabouts of a certain Nepali girl called Juna who was pregnant (her husbands child) but had to go to jail and then the center where there is NO help for pregnant ladies.

I will write about this one in length later.