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The nightmare of getting an impounded car back

You can check to find an impounded car at http://kuwaitimpound.com but that’s only helpful if the car has actually been registered and if you’ve paid the fines

The controversy surrounding a harsh new traffic regulation whereby cars will be impounded for two months if drivers are caught using mobiles or driving without seatbelts has roiled Kuwait in recent days. This reporter has suffered through the ‘impounding’ process. Here’s what waits for you in case your car has been impounded.

DAY 1:
A car is a lifeline for reporters. We spend our days running from interview to press conference, from meeting to event and it’s impossible to complete our assignments without transportation. So imagine my dismay when on Oct 29, my car was towed when I parked it – apparently illegally – in Kuwait City. Other cars were also parked there, because it’s an open area in front of a coffee shop near the Palace of Justice. I left the car there and went to a nearby building to meet a friend. When I returned about an hour or so later, I found no cars in that spot. The guard of a nearby building told me that all cars there were taken away by the police.

DAYS 2 & 3:
The interior ministry was firm to implement a new rule for vehicles illegally parked in undesignated areas. My car was among the 6,000 vehicles seized on the first day of the campaign. In the morning, I went to the impoundment lot in Shuwaikh, assuming it would be there. But I was told to go to the central traffic department near Sulaibikhat. I wasn’t prepared, so I went there the following day.

DAYS 4 & 5:
In the Capital governorate, there is no clearly designated place for claiming impounded vehicles. I don’t speak the language, so imagine the challenge of talking to people in broken Arabic. I somehow managed but it didn’t really help. You can check to find an impounded car at http://kuwaitimpound.com but that’s only helpful if the car has actually been registered. Despite having been impounded for several days, my car was not in the system.
At the government office, I was told to come back later, and I did – three times. On the fourth try, I heard from a police officer that my car will be returned only after two months. He advised me to come back after two weeks, and probably the car’s record would be there.

DAY 15:
After two weeks, I went there, but my car was still not recorded in their system. A colleague managed through a contact in the interior ministry to enquire about my car. It was finally located, thanks to direct help, although there was still no record in the system. But at least someone was able to guide me on the proper step-by-step-procedure to get it back. The officer advised me to get a printout from the records section in Subhan (across from 360 Mall). I went there and got it, and an officer directed me to go straight to the traffic department in Jahra to get my car. When I went there, they couldn’t locate my record in the system. They told me to come back the following day, so I did, but again, no record was found in the system.

DAYS 17 & 18:
The following day, I returned to the central traffic department to enquire why my record was not showing up at the Jahra traffic department. I was told that it will not appear because I hadn’t paid the fine yet. So I returned to the Capital traffic department and paid the KD 15 fee. At the central traffic department, the papers will pass through the hands of many police officers (at least four). I was then told to get my car in Jahra. I went back to the same place where I had gone two consecutive times, but they told me my car will be released in Naseem. This area is at a distance of three kilometers from the Jahra traffic department.

Naseem is a secluded place in Jahra, with a makeshift tent for returning the cars impounded by the traffic police. But Naseem only serves as a release section, and is not the place where they keep the impounded vehicles. Here, car owners have to face a series of paperwork, including payment for holding the car. I paid an additional KD 28 as the cost for keeping my car in the impoundment lot in Doha. The release details of your car will now be sent to the Doha facility, and they’ll locate the whereabouts of your car among the thousands of seized vehicles.

Those who went there in the morning – like me – after paying the holding fees, were told to come back between 9pm and 10 pm. I went there at 9 pm, but the car didn’t appear in the release section even until 1 am. Finally, I suggested accompanying the guy tasked to get the car from the impoundment lot so I could locate it myself.

By Ben Garcia

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