Waiting too long on Kuwait - Foreign affairs ministry defends decision on where to locate Jamaica’s mission in the Gulf
A Jamaican living in Qatar is calling for a rethink in how the country's diplomatic affairs are handled in that part of the world.
The Jamaican Embassy in Kuwait handles diplomatic issues for persons in the Gulf States, but Joan Williams*, who along with her husband and two sons, moved to Qatar in 2012 believes the embassy should be in Qatar or the United Arab Emirates, which she believes have larger Jamaican populations.
"We have a large community of Jamaicans here and our community is growing larger; and the person who should be representing us or our embassy is all the way in Kuwait," said Williams.
"And we can't just visit Kuwait; we have to have an invitation from the person we are visiting. So if anything happens to us now, nobody will hear from us, we are on our own here."
But the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, in an emailed response to The Sunday Gleaner, pointed out that there are multiple factors determining the location of Jamaica's overseas missions.
These include budgetary constraints, the strength of bilateral relations and the potential to contribute to Jamaica's growth and development agenda.
DECIDED IN 2010
The ministry said after these things were considered and a visit made to the Gulf region, the decision was made in 2010 to establish a mission in Kuwait.
"Although the ministry does not have precise numbers of Jamaican nationals residing in Kuwait, Qatar, or the UAE, it is important to note that our mission in Kuwait has received a greater number of requests for passport renewals, authentication of documents and the provision of other consular services from Jamaicans in Kuwait, as opposed to elsewhere in the Gulf Cooperation Council States - Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman," said the ministry.
The 36-year-old Williams said she had to make the tough decision of taking her children out of school and leaving Jamaica after her husband had tried unsuccessfully to land a job here as a pilot.
She had also grown frustrated with her salary as a civil servant and the way she was being treated on the job.
"The reason we made the move was that my husband got a job here with Qatar Airways. He continuously applied to Air Jamaica, but it was a who-knows-who to get in," said Williams, whose husband was on a course in France when she spoke with our news team.
"My husband performed very well in the interview and they paid for him to get the type rating and they sponsored his family to come," added Williams, who has also found a job in Qatar, where she helps to run a school.
POLICE RECORD WOES
But this requires that she gets a police record from Jamaica each year. She said, in recent times, she has experienced some difficulty in getting the record on time.
"The ambassador who was in Kuwait, he used to send it because he knew that we needed it immediately to get our labour cards. They changed ambassadors and it is taking up to six months to come back," said Williams.
"I sent mine the other day and it took six months to come back. By the time I sent it to the government office, it had expired. I had to send back to Jamaica to get another one.
"Right now, I have to come back to Jamaica to get a police record and I am dreading the whole process, because I know it is going to take long. And I am starting it in the summer although I don't need it until December."
But in its response, the Foreign Affairs Ministry said the normal turnaround time, assuming all requirements are met, for the authentication of police records is two to three working days from the time of receipt by the embassy.
The ministry also scoffed at Williams' claim that when she calls the Jamaican embassy in Kuwait, the persons who work there do not speak English and this takes away from the "homely, welcoming feeling you are supposed to get when you call your embassy".
"As is to be expected, however, the first language of the locally recruited staff at the Mission in Kuwait is Arabic. All members of the locally recruited staff, however, are fluent in English," said the ministry.
* Named changed
Jamaicans living in the Gulf region are encouraged to register with the embassy and to contact Charge d'Affaires, Nigel Smith at email@example.com or telephone +965-2524-4261 or +965-2524-4136.