Should Expats Get Involved in the Politics or Civil Matters of a Host Nation?

(This is a transcript of 4S1F49 Does an Expat Have The Right to Take Part In Local Protests?.)

Many nations around the world are experiencing growing pains concerning the rights and privileges of its people. These concerns cover a wide range of issues from environmental, political, religious, LGBT, animal and human rights. Citizens of these nations are expressing their opinions about their current situation and looking for ways to further improve their socioeconomic condition. Sometimes people in these nations look for examples and encouragement from overseas to help further propagate and refine their approach to their current situation within their own country. In some cases, expats may find themselves being questioned or asked for advice about how similar situations in their home nation are or were dealt with.

Here is a question that I would like to directly ask many fellow expats who are currently abroad. Do you feel it’s your obligation, responsibility or even right to get involved in issues that could potentially and or adversely affect your host nation? Let’s be clear that I’m directing this question primarily at expats that don’t have citizenship in their host nation. However, an expat may have residential privileges and be married to a local citizen and currently raising a family (in his or her host nation). An expat may feel that he or she has successfully been immersed in and developed a thorough understanding of the host nation to the point of saying that he or she deeply cares about it. This expat may proclaim that he or she would be willing do what is needed to help see that their host nation further develops and flourishes.

There are a few expats who feel that they are morally obligated to help propose policies or rights they themselves may or may not possess, even in their own home nation, on the people of a country which they aren’t a citizen of. Remember that there is a big difference between taking part in local cultural events and civil matters. Keep in mind that the government of an expats adopted nation has the right to simply limit or deport any expat for attempting to take part in events or actions that it feels could negatively influence regional or national policies. In some conservative nations, expats are even prohibited from taking part in many local social events. An expat doesn’t have any voting privileges or right to influence local and national elections. In other words, an expat’s involvement will most likely not have any significant impact. In fact, an expats involvement could create unforeseen problems. The truth is, from an overseas host government’s perspective, an expat is simply just an outside observer.

There are many social and political issues an expat maybe willing to make a passionate public statement about. Expats must be aware that many nations do not think kindly of foreign nationals propagating their opinions, especially in local public arenas. The fact is, in many nations, foreign nationals are not trusted to the point of being labeled anything from oppressor to opportunist.

An expat may never be fully intergraded or accepted into all parts of a host nation. There will always be a far side of a host nation that an expat may never be allowed to reach and this is something that may just have to be accepted. The reasons for this may frankly be the way an expat converses with citizens, habits displayed or simply the way a particular expat looks. Local citizens aren’t under any obligation to completely accept an expat as one of their own. The only thing an expat can do, as a human being, is to strengthen the personal relationships he or she has built within their host nation.

To protect themselves from an outside governments’ control, most national constitutions exclusively have sections or provisions that directly prohibit any foreign national from taking part in, interfering or influencing, in any way, civil matters. These nations retain the right to expel any foreign national deemed as disrupting the political affairs of their country. Also, many national constitutions make it a clear point that in legal disputes between a foreign national and a citizen of their nation, any decision made must place their citizen’s rights as having priority over foreign national’s at all levels in any litigation. So if you are an expat in a nation that clearly allots this right to its citizens, you may honestly find yourself on the losing end of a disagreement with your local employer, landlord or even girlfriend, boyfriend or spouse (payments, rentals, divorce, property, etc.). If you are facing a legal issue as an expat, you simply may not be given the protection of a nationalized citizen. In this case, if any legal awards are given, it shouldn’t be a surprise that an expat doesn’t get what maybe considered a fair deal.

It’s easy to find news specifically headlining the involvements of overseas governments somehow influencing or directing the politics and election results of another nation. The reasons an outside government would want to do so are far and wide (and beyond the scope of this current discussion).

As a citizen of your nation, whether by passport or birth, ask yourself a few questions. Think for a moment about how you would react, if someone from a foreign nation expressed an opinion about your country that directly affected your personal civil rights.

Would you be concerned that someone from another nation got actively involved in the local politics of your nation? Would you mind another nation supplying funds to support opposition in your country? These are serious and sensitive questions that expats themselves must be aware of before getting involved in sensitive civil issues and debates overseas.

There are many reasons a foreign national could be accused of getting involved in local civil matters. Many expats do let their opinions be known in private gatherings and this, for the most part, may be just fine if kept within the confines of a small group. However, for example, if an expat teaching in a local remedial school or university expresses personal opinions, which negatively attacks local institutions, he or she could be subjected to violations of contractual provisions that specifically prevents foreigners from raising opinions on such topics. Local officials could label an expat fitting this description as an outside meddler, which may not only make the expat a target for deportation and public ridicule, but also place the expat in jail and in physical danger. On some occasions, which are clearly out of an expat’s control, there may even be political decisions or events that occur back in an expat’s home nation, which could adversely impact an expats host nation. The results could create an unfavorable environment for an expat currently overseas.

I am just trying to bring this out into the open for further discussion, but not disrespectful debate. Every country has the right to develop their own rules for formulating a foundation their citizens can agree on without outside intervention or meddling interference

An expat in his or her host nation is much like a guest in someone’s home.  Just like a guest in someone’s home, an expat must remember that they themselves chose to become a guest and wasn’t forced into becoming one. Unless asked for an opinion from their host, an expat doesn’t have the responsibility, right, privilege or obligation to impress on their host what they may feel isn’t right about their host’s environment or way of doing things.

However, I do believe that as a member of the human race, there may be times when an expat can’t just watch and silently accept the destruction or abuse of universally accepted moral principals and human rights. In case an expat decides to present a public opinion on a sensitive issue within the borders of their host nation, he or she must be aware of the possible unpleasant results of such action. The expat must be willing to face the consequences and fully understand the possible outcomes.

If an expat is able to accept the culture of the nation they reside in, they should also understand that he or she isn’t a citizen and should try to respectfully follow the rules and regulations of the residing nation. If an expat feels that he or she is unable to accept the rules and regulations, it is respectfully advised that he or she moves elsewhere.

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