Saudi Arabia to take sympathetic view over repatriate issue

Pak-Saudi-Arabia-exercisesBy Zaheerul Hassan

According to the media reports, Saudi Government has  initiates a crackdown on illegal expatriates which created chaos and panic amongst Indonesia, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Philippines and Egypt. Thousands of people lined up in their respective Embassies / Consulate to correct their status or leave the Kingdom before expiry of deadline i.e. 13 July 2013.

In this connection, Asian ambassadors have strongly urged the Saudi government to extend the grace period beyond July 13 for the correction of the visa status of undocumented workers in the Kingdom, considering the large number of workers affected. The 90-day amnesty, decreed by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah, allows irregular foreign workers to have their status legalized or return home without facing any penalty for past violations.

Taking such a strict actions against Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Nepal and the Philippines are seem to be injustice since people of the said country are playing pivotal role in the development of Saudi economy. Secondly the Saudi government should realize that pushing back foreigners from the country will likely to spoil relationship between other countries too. In this regard, Pakistani ambassador Mohammed Naeem also urged that massive exercise to legalize the status of the remaining hundreds of thousands of workers will not be completed before the July 3 deadline. Pakistan Ambassador has requested the Ministry of Labor in writing to “extend the grace period until the end of the current year.” Khan said the Pakistan diplomatic missions have put in place an “extensive outreach program” to serve the irregular workers.

He said Pakistani missions have issued more than 22,000 travel documents so far. “But all of them will not go back to Pakistan … many have now found jobs or sponsors willing to hire them,” said Khan, while referring to the 70 centers for workers’ registration currently operational in different places the Kingdom. “About 111 companies have also been registered with the embassy to provide possible employment to Pakistanis,” said the diplomat. Large number of Pakistani came here on Umrah and overstayed. Some of them stayed for over twenty years. Their basic documents i.e. passport, ID Cards and Iqamas (Resident Permit) have expired. Children born during this period are grown up but without any legal status. At the time of their birth local hospitals entertained but now are reluctant to give birth certificates. Similar situation exists with many other who lost the documents or their sponsors forcibly snatched their passports and resultantly  they were forced to live in hiding or moving around for job.

The other category of the people is those who arrived KSA on open (Azad) Visa and they were working as labours in different parts of the country. These categories of workers now want to correct their status and go under a sponsor.

The Saudi should also realize that the prevailing situation is considered beyond the capacity of Pak Embassy / Consulate nor Saudi authorities have sufficient resources to handle  the cases at deportation Centers. Only one day in a week has been dedicated by Saudi authorities to handle Pakistani expatriates at Jeddah. Maximum 800-1000 cases are handled on this day. Whereas over 4000-5000 are added in waiting list each week. Majority of the people now prefer to correct their status. Rather than opting to go back. Saudis are taking advantage and even resorting to exploitation by taking advantage and even resorting to exploitation by taking sponsorship of young females / girls who came here for begging or prostitution (each Saudi can take up to four persons under his sponsorship). Similarly those who want to stay as a family are also being exploited.

Media reports (Geo News) about expulsion of 30000 persons and Shaeen Sehbai article  50,000 persons deportation is probably incorrect. So far there is no idea about number of illegal people likely to be effected and face deportation. An estimated 20,000 people will have documents to travel back 13 July 2013 however exact figure is difficult to ascertain. Anyhow, Nepalese Embassy will be able to regularize all its workers or repatriate them before the deadline “The Nepalese mission has managed to issue about 30,000 travel documents including 5,000 issued by our team in Jeddah so far,” he noted.

Most of them have not left the Kingdom mainly because of the procedural complications and the slow pace of processing exit visa formalities, he added.

Currently there are an estimated 1.2 million Indonesians in Saudi Arabia. There are about 600,000 Indonesian living in Jeddah alone and about 30 percent of them had invalid passports or expired visas. In short, Saudi government should reconsider the cases of repatriate of the visitors, who are working for the development of Saudi Arabia, it will definitely helps in improving the economy of their homelands.

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