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Normalizing relations with expats

Abdullatif Al-Dwaihi

By Abdullatif Al-Dwaihi

The Filipino community in Al-Khobar taught us a lesson full of morals. We have seen how the Filipino community, both men and women, from all jobs and specialties, gathered on a Friday morning during their weekend and cleaned the Al-Khobar’s corniche. They removed all trash and wastes and made it look much more beautiful.

If we do not understand from the beginning the meaning of expats, then we will not be able to change or do anything around us. The Filipino community did not just give us a lesson in cleanliness or in teamwork but, a lesson in this and even more. The inherent lesson the community taught us was the importance of reconsidering having a relationship that has the citizen and the expats on an equal footing. This relationship should be built on sharing the positive values and benefits between each other.

So many expats spend a quarter or half of their lives in another country other than their own. They are forced to leave their country due to various circumstances in their countries or their need to survive by getting a job. But this does not mean we should limit our thinking and just think about them based on this. We should bring down the barriers separating us and share with each other our various cultures and traditions.

When I was at the Book Fair in Riyadh recently, I was thinking about the reason for not allowing expats from participating in the Book Fair, even if it is in a small corner of the fair. Is it logical to request publishing companies from far and nearby countries to take part and forbid the expats who live among us from participating? How many opportunities have we lost due to our underestimating their knowledgeable, social, and economic output? How many opportunities have we lost because of our bureaucracy? And how many opportunities we have lost as a result of our narrow-mindedness?

There are millions of Egyptians, Syrians, Yemenis, Indians, Pakistanis, and Filipinos around us. So is it logical not to allow them to participate in anything productive at Riyadh’s or Jeddah’s Book Fair?

Have we ever asked ourselves why many of these millions of people are absent from our cultural, literary, and intellectual forums? Or from our social activities? Or even from our commercial and economic events? Is it possible none of those millions in our midst is able to give a lecture related to their countries or cultures? For instance, a lecture in Indian literature, or in Filipino poetry, or about corruption in Africa, or the agriculture system in Algeria, or about the civil society in Palestine, or manufacturing base in Indonesia, or about the trade in Malaysia, or education in Korea? Why do we consider expats as people without certain backgrounds or interests or even feelings?

Why the Ministry of Labor and Social Development does not establish an administration to supervise the social and voluntary work done by expats in the districts and cities they live in?

Why the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs and its municipalities does not establish an administration to supervise the voluntary service activities done by expats for the sake of cleaning parks and afforesting streets and valleys? Don’t we remember the heroic efforts of many citizens as well as expats in rescuing the drowned people in Jeddah’s floods and in other cities?

If I was one of the authorities in the municipalities or Eastern Province governorate, I would have rewarded all of the Filipino community who cleaned Al-Khobar’s cornice on their own volition.

Why would not the General Entertainment Authority benefit from the arts and folklores of the nations living among us? For example, they can allow them to present these arts and folklores in our cities and districts. Wouldn’t this add to our cultural knowledge and perspectives?

Why would not the General Presidency of Youth Welfare set up sports competitions weekly between the different communities of expats? This would create a positive competitive atmosphere between those communities and even entertain the audience at the same time.

Why isn’t there an organization or a specific authority to encourage the expats around us to immerse in our community? It can be done by engaging them for example, in our cultural activities. Why don’t we support the creative expats and reward them for their voluntary work and services done to everyone in raising environmental, health, and educational awareness?

Why would not the Ministry of Labor and Social Development create certain records for expats wherein it calculates their social, cultural, and voluntary activities in our country? Those records would be like points to collect in order to get a Green Card and features no other ordinary resident can have.

I believe that there is no citizen who has not benefited from expats around us — either in education or health or even in any other field. Moreover, some of the expats have actually served the country voluntarily, more than some of the citizens have. Those expats need our support and appreciation as well as encouragement to give the country more.

The expats among us are full of knowledge that we need to reconsider for the sake of both our interest and their interest in building our society, economy, and culture.

This is the way we want expats to live with us. This is the way we want expats to think about us. We want to be thankful to those expats and show our gratitude for what they give to us, unlike what some minorities of expats or citizens do. This is the way we want to live in a just and fair country.