Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Iraq: How NOT To Get Deported, Expats Need to Avoid Ruffling Political, Religious Perogatives

According to AFP, Iraqis angry over alleged religious insults beat up a British expat working at an energy company’s camp in the country’s south and spurred another firm to suspend operations, officials said yesterday (November 12).

The two separate incidents come as Baghdad relies heavily on foreign oil firms from the US, Britain, China and elsewhere to help it ramp up its crude production in the coming years in order to fund much-needed reconstruction. 

Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki waded into the disputes, which involved American oilfield services companies Schlumberger and Baker Hughes, calling for the deportation of one of the expats involved.

COMMENT: Iraqi officials said a British employee of security firm G4S, working at a Schlumberger camp near the giant Rumaila oilfield had on Monday (November 11) attempted to remove flags and pamphlets commemorating Imam Hussein, a venerated figure of Shias, just days before annual rituals marking his death.

“A British employee took down a flag for Hussein and a picture of Imam Ali from the cars of the security company, and tore them down with a knife,” said Ali Shaddad, a member of the provincial council of Basra, which is predominantly Shia.

Rumaila, located in south Iraq, is the country’s biggest oilfield, where Britain’s BP and China’s CNPC have been working with oilfield services companies to ramp up output. “This provoked a group of workers, and they went and hit him repeatedly,” said Shaddad.

He said the man was transferred to a hospital in Basra and has yet to be discharged. The provincial councilor added that there were demands for Schlumberger’s offices in Basra to be closed and its foreign staff deported.

The incident follows a similar one days earlier in which an Egyptian employee of Baker Hughes, another US oil services firm, also tried to remove flags commemorating Imam Hussein and Imam Ali from vehicles he was to use. It sparked protests which spurred the authorities to arrest the Egyptian, Shaddad said, on charges of insults against religion. 

Several major international energy firms operate in south Iraq, which is rich in oil reserves, but take security precautions in the form of fortified camps and secured convoys due to the high level of violence in the country. 

The reality is that a lack of religious or political tolerance does not complement the term "expatriate," the latter of whom serve at the discretion of the host nation and their employer, both of which can order their deportation.