Thursday, April 25, 2013

Update:Crackdowns of Expats Working in Saudi Arabia

 Written by: Anonymous in Saudi Arabia
This past month, Labor forces in Saudi Arabia have cracked down on illegal workers. Eyewitnesses have reported to the local newspapers various accounts of situations faced. Many Western expats do not discuss such issues, because of course, it is not affecting them firsthand. For some reason though, even though I am a "Westerner" it is deeply affecting me. To see human rights be diminished is down right sad and wrong. If anything, the least that I can do is make people aware of the reality that thousands of expats are dealing with-right here and right now.
Many expats entered Saudi Arabia on a visit visa or a work visa. Everyone has a story. Usually the salary here is higher than in their home country. Saudi employers may have helped them attain a legal visa to work, and others allowed them to work illegally. In many cases, things go wrong and the Sponsor decides not to pay workers on time, refuses to renew thier work visa/iqama, or holds their passport to prevent them from leaving. Some people living in Saudi Arabia feel that this does not happen. Again, those who feel this way are the ones from Western countries who do not even associate with those from Pakistan, Indian, Bangledesh, Sri Lanka, the Phillipines and many other neighboring countries. Shockingly, when these expats want to return to thier home country, they are not allowed. Can you imagine moving somewhere and feeling that you may not be allowed to leave when you need to?

In order to leave the country, the Sponsor/Employer must first apply for an exit visa or multiple-exit/re-entry visa. These visa’s cannot be applied for by the expat, only the employer. Thus, if the employer chooses not to apply for the Visa, then the worker cannot leave. Some expats visa's expired and employers chose not to renew it. The high fees kept the expat from renewing it and as a result, they were left here illegally. This is quite common and the foreigners continues to work or search for work elsewhere. If he finds work from another employer, he cannot legally be hired, unless the previous employer grants permission. Can you see the predicament that foreigners are put in? Entrapment. Yes, it sounds harsh-but especially to those who are living right now in Saudi Arabia and wondering what to do next.

During the week of April 20, 2013, I drove past the Phillipino Counsolate to see for myself if those expats were truly camping outside. I saw it with my own eyes - hundreds of Phillipino citizens were camping under blue tarps and some were lucky enough to be in tents. The heat has caused children to become ill, as these Phillipino nationals wait to be released to return back to their country. In fact, before last months "Raid", they asked to be repatriated back to the Phillipines. Many of them do not even have their passports due to their employers keeping them. Others do not have a valid iqama to legally work in Saudi Arabia. They want to go home and they are simply waiting to be allowed-all at the mercy of forces in Saudi Arabia.
On April 24, a similar story was posted from yet another media source. Sri Lankins are now gathered below a bridge in Jeddah...waiting to be returned to Sri Lanka. Lucky for them, Saudi Arabia has agreed to send them back, but only at 25 people per day. One can only imagine what it must feel like to have no control over where to stay or where to go. Read more about this situation here: http://www.emirates247.com/news/sri-lanka/saudi-arabia-grants-amnesty-for-thousands-of-sri-lankan-workers-2013-04-23-1.503772

This crackdown is now affecting the local economy. In Dammam, Saudi Arabia one such shop has been forced to increase the cost of their clothing. You can read more about it here: http://www.arabnews.com/news/448854  The Arab news quoted Shoua’ Al-Dheilan, Workshop Committee president, saying: “The price increase is the result of the campaign against laborers who were in violation of their status. This prompted the regular women workers to demand higher wages if the workshop owners wanted them to continue. This in turn increased the cost of a number of services.”

Again, it is disheartening to hear the newspaper dab foreign workers as being “in violation of their status.” They have no choice and now that they are being forced to fix their status, they are being denied. So, what is the solution? For some, the only solution is to return to their home country. For many, the question remains-how?

Additional Articles (to affirm that this is really happening) http://www.saudigazette.com.sa/index.cfm?method=home.regcon&contentid=20130421162259








Interviews with Residents in Jeddah:

1.      Akhbar, who works in the car industry put in his resignation letter to his company-3 months ago! They have refused him to leave until he finds a replacement for his company.

2.      Ana, a Phillipino national comes to the Phillipino Counsolate daily. She continues to ask them to send her home. Her Visa/Iqama to work as a house maid expired and her sponsor refused to renew it. She has her passport, but no way of leaving, due to not being able to afford the financial fines accrued as being an “over-stayer.”

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