KUWAIT: Starting next week, 73 Indian nurses who have been stranded in Kuwait without a job for the past two years will finally begin regular duties at Kuwait's public hospitals and clinics. This was confirmed by a representative of the group, who spoke to Kuwait Times on the condition of anonymity. "We are very happy about this. We've waited so long; our families suffered enough because of this ordeal. Now the job we were waiting for is in our hands. We want to make sure we will be performing our duties as per the health ministry's contract. We fought for this for long, so we really want to express our gratitude to those who stood by us during the darkest times of our ordeal," the group's spokesperson said.

"The Indian Embassy did a lot to make this MoH employment possible. We had several fallouts during the past two years with them, but it turned out they were the ultimate agency that helped us resolve our problem. Thank God all problems were sorted out and all issues surrounding our employment and legality were addressed," she noted. The spokesperson also praised the health ministry officials in Kuwait, the media that highlighted their issues to the public and some NGOs that supported them in times of need.

"Thank you MoH for allowing us stay at the government accommodation, where we were provided with food while our issues were being tackled. We are now in the stage of training and workshops for almost a month to prepare us for the job next week. We've been oriented to the basic rules and guidelines of the ministry and it looks like every one of us is ready for the job. As per our expertise, we are ready to work. This is only a refresher course, as we've worked and have experience in this job, so it's easier for us," she told Kuwait Times.

Asked if they will be granted retroactive salaries for the past two years, she said: "I am sure everyone in the group wants it. But, remember, we've been through a lot, so let us start the job first. It is up to the ministry of health if they are willing to compensate us for the lost years. Our first salary will come in our banks by the end of January. We can now pay our debts and loans which we took from friends and family members."

Out of a total of 80 nurses who were stranded in Kuwait, 73 were officially employed by the ministry of health, while the remaining seven either went back to India for good or transferred to dependent visas. In Aug 2018, Kuwait Times highlighted the ordeal of these nurses. The nurses applied and got the job in India, and came to Kuwait through legal means. However, after arrival, the ministry questioned their documents. The group of nurses, all with nursing qualifications from India and recruited by health ministry officials, are living in government housing, but were unable to work pending verification of their certifications.

"We were a group of 80 Indian nurses who came directly from India (Bangalore, Cochin, Delhi and Mumbai) and were hired directly by health ministry representatives after they held interviews from February to April 2015," a representative of the group had said. In 2015, the ministry of health conducted interviews and exams in India and around 1,500 nurses were hired and issued temporary visas that allowed them to enter Kuwait. The 80 nurses were part of that batch.

By Ben Garcia