The expatriate community is now running from pillar to post trying to correct their legal status and the predicament that they are in.
For many, it is not their fault. Take the case of a cab driver who came to me and said that he had paid his sponsor a fee for his iqama renewal. The sponsor took the money and so far nothing has been done and the day of the expiry of the iqama is fast approaching. The sponsor does not answer calls.
The real nightmare is for those whose sponsors are in other cities. An Indian expat told me that his sponsor is in Buraidah and has demanded SR10,000. Anyway, the man’s fate has been sealed. A couple of days ago, he was detained and is now is some deportation center. In another case, two expat workers were picked up from the office where they worked.
As the final day of the amnesty approaches, the fees for everything go up astronomically. And we have this exercise of amnesty every few years and make a big fuss about it. However, we do not solve the root problem, which is the selling of visas.
And let’s be frank about Vision 2030, which we support and which aims to reduce bureaucracy and corruption. In order for this to succeed, civil society should assist and play an important role. The media has failed because they are busy hailing and praising. I feel sorry for the thousands of workers who are at the mercy of a “kafeel” (sponsor). I know of an Asian whose daughter lost two years of her medical education in her own country as the worker could not meet his sponsor’s demands.
While the Minister of Labor and Social Development is doing his best to tackle the issue and clean up the ministry, it is important that he listen to the stakeholders and the honest public who care about their country. Let us not be carried away by ignorant, self-centered tweeters who proclaim their patriotism!
Instead of deporting all these workers, many of whom are victims of their sponsors, why not regularize them. Make a list of workers, register them after fingerprinting and medical examination and if anyone wants to retain their services let them do so through a qualified government agency. Instead, we deport them and then we send another 200,000 or 300,000 visas abroad.
Last week, I entered a cab in Riyadh and asked the driver to take me to the Chamber of Commerce. He did not know the way. I asked him how long he had been in Riyadh. He said that he had only been in the Kingdom for one month. My wife remarked that we deported tens of thousands a couple of years ago and asked why we had not retained them after carrying out a thorough check. I told her I had no answer to that question. I strongly believe that the Ministries of Labor and Interior should sit with the Chamber of Commerce and local business people, as they are also affected by this.
I also appeal to Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman to extend the grace period a couple of months to help alleviate the sufferings of many innocent people.
We are, inshallah, the Kingdom of Humanity. May God help to preserve and protect our Kingdom.
— Reprinted with permission of the Saudi Gazette and Khaled Almaeena. The writer is Editor-at-Large. He can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter: @KhaledAlmaeena