Egyptians stuck in Kuwait have made distress calls to their government to help them return to their homeland, but officials are being slow to act given the large numbers of expats and the ensuing costs of health and quarantine precautions to be made following their return.
Social media activists have shared many video clips that document the struggles of stranded Egyptian workers in Kuwait. One of the videos displays part of a protest by Egyptian workers stuck in Kabed, Kuwait, where they were kept in shelters. On May 4, dozens protested, calling on Egyptian authorities to return them to their country.
Kuwaiti security forces used tear gas to disperse what they described as “riots.”
The protesters had been stuck in Kuwait after exceeding the length of stay granted to them, and all trips to Egypt had been suspended because of measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
Earlier videos showed protesting workers announcing a hunger strike, while a Kuwaiti security officer tried to calm them down and persuade them to break the strike.
“We are being left here in the desert with no water or electricity or even toilets.”
“We are being left here in the desert with no water or electricity or even toilets. No one from the Egyptian consulate or government is contacting us to get us from here,” an Egyptian worker said in a video circulated on social media after he was relocated to Kabed, Kuwait.
The videos showed the workers chanting slogans denouncing the Egyptian government for ignoring their demands to return to their country.
The workers are believed to be among more than 5,000 Egyptians who were illegally working in Kuwait, with forged residence permits or whose work contracts had expired, and have surrendered themselves to the Kuwaiti authorities to take advantage of a decision exempting violators of the residency law from fines and sponsoring them until they book their travel tickets back home, according to Kuwaiti activists.
For its part, the Egyptian Consulate in Kuwait called on its affected citizens to “register their data in the office of workers affairs so that legal measures can be taken against residency law violators.”
The Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs also stated that it is “working to evacuate 270 women and children now in shelters in Kuwait soon.”
Living in Iron Containers
Sarah Shalaby, an Egyptian journalist and TV presenter residing in Kuwait, published a video on her official Facebook page, criticizing the Egyptian government for not intensifying efforts to return the Egyptian expatriates.
She said that the Egyptian irregular workers are suffering in Kuwait as they live in homes similar to “iron containers” in the desert and some have complained about the lack of food, water, and electricity.
Shalaby’s comments angered some Kuwaitis who called for her expatriation.
Measures taken by the world to curb the spread of the coronavirus have disrupted the evacuations of travelers and expatriates.
The Egyptian government had already evacuated a number of its citizens from foreign and Arab countries. But, preventive measures taken by the world to curb the spread of the coronavirus have disrupted the evacuations of more travelers and expatriates, especially students and workers.
Egyptian artist Amr Yousri also appeared in a video clip, appealing to President Sisi to help him return to the country from the United States, explaining that the government provided two planes to evacuate the stranded in Washington.
He added that there are certain prerequisites that need to be met by the travelers before they can get on a flight, including bearing the costs of the plane ticket and the 14-day quarantine period at a hotel.
Yousri criticized the idea of all returnees being charged for compulsory 14-day quarantine costs in a hotel in the Marsa Alam area as it may cost an individual some 25,000 Egyptian pounds ($1,580 USD). “How can I get all this money?” he asked.
President Sisi recently announced allocating money to cover the costs of travel and quarantine for stranded Egyptians.
However, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi has recently announced allocating money from the “Long Live Egypt” fund to cover the costs of travel and quarantine for stranded Egyptians, according to local media.
At a meeting on April 18, President Sisi stressed the need for the government to set a timetable for returning the stranded at the earliest time possible, taking into account the measures to combat the spread of coronavirus.
Egypt’s ambassador to Kuwait, Tariq Al-Qouni, affirmed on May 4 that the evacuation process will start this week with the first of these flights operated in accordance with a schedule that considers the absorptive capacities of the healthcare system in Egypt. He noted that priority will be given to women and children and all returning will be subject to a 14-day quarantine.
Egyptians Stuck in Qatar, Turkey
There are also hundreds of Egyptians stranded in Qatar and Turkey, but so far they have not been reached out to for help in light of political tensions between the two countries.
Egyptian Minister of Immigration Nabila Makram said on May 4 that there is a government plan to return Egyptians stuck in both Qatar and Turkey.
“They were taken into account in the schedule set by the government . . . to be approved by the Prime Minister,” Makram said; adding: “The government is working to return all stranded Egyptians before Eid al-Fitr.”
Qatar said that Egyptian authorities refused to receive a Spanish plane coming from Doha to transport stranded Egyptians.
The Qatari Foreign Ministry said that the Egyptian authorities refused to receive a Spanish plane coming from Doha to transport stranded Egyptians. The Egyptian Foreign Ministry was not available for comment.
On March 6, already, Egyptian authorities had prevented Qataris from entering the country in response to a Qatari decision to ban all arrivals from Egypt. According to Reuters, Qatar had “imposed a temporary restriction on entry to its territory on visitors from Egypt via intermediate points because of the virus’s spread. The ban did not specifically mention Egyptian nationals.”
The decision in Egypt, which also included Qataris who have valid residency permits, came as a principle of reciprocity, according to a cabinet statement reported by Reuters.
Not Only in Egypt
Parliamentarians (MPs) have expressed their sympathy for the stranded Egyptians, but they have called on them to “show patience and pay attention to those who seek to use their conditions politically to get revenge [on] the Egyptian government.”
“What is happening is not limited only to Egypt, but extends to the rest of the world,” MP Mohamed Abdallah Zein El-Deen told Inside Arabia in a statement.
“What is happening is not limited only to Egypt, but extends to the rest of the world.”
He also praised government efforts saying that it is taking all possible steps to return all Egyptians back home, but it is taking some time due to the large number of expatriates abroad. He added that some developed countries were also unable to return their nationals back home due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“It is a problem all over the world, not only in Egypt,” he said.
Speaking before a parliamentary session on May 3, Parliament Speaker Ali Abdel-Al said that the issue of the stranded Egyptians abroad is not an easy one because the return of citizens first requires providing a place to isolate them.
Parliamentarian Bassam Fleifel submitted a proposal to transport the Egyptian workers in Kuwait back home via ships with the duration of the trip – usually 14 days – being calculated as a quarantine period.
“In this way, the government will not bear the costs of accommodating the returning Egyptians at hotels for their quarantine,” he told local media.
“In this way, the government will not bear the costs of accommodating the returning Egyptians at hotels for their quarantine.”
However, economist Ahmed el-Shami said that the returning workers will also become a burden on the government as they are considered irregular workers who are already struggling due to the coronavirus lockdown.
“The government had already given a grant of 500 Egyptian pounds to irregular workers now being present in Egypt,” he told Inside Arabia. “With the arrival of the thousands of irregular workers from Kuwait, the government will need to offer similar grants to them and this will increase financial burdens on the government.”
Several economic sectors, including trade and tourism, have been affected by the coronavirus lockdown with Egyptian officials saying it is losing billions of dollars on a monthly basis from the suspension of trade and tourism movement.
Several economic sectors in Egypt, including trade and tourism, have been affected by the coronavirus lockdown.
Last week, the Egyptian government asked the International Monetary Fund for financial and technical assistance to combat the spread of coronavirus.
El-Shami said that although the economic reform measures taken by the government since 2016 have helped Egypt withstand the negative repercussions of the pandemic, the economy is still in danger in the long run.
“It is not at all good for the Egyptian economy to bear additional financial burdens as the coronavirus is taking its toll on many economic sectors,” he added.