Thousands of expats urged to seize opportunity to regularise status
Manama: Saudi Arabia’s king has called for giving foreigners staying illegally in the country a three-month grace period to regularize their situation.
“The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud has directed the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Labour that labourers violating regulations in the Kingdom be given a grace period of three months to regularise their status,” according to a statement carried by the official news agency on Saturday. “The law will be enforced against those who remain in violation following the end of the grace period,” the statement said.
Authorities in Saudi Arabia have launched a massive campaign to deport thousands of foreigners who overstayed their residence permits or worked illegally or did not have the legal documents to work or stay in the country.
The nation-wide campaign is attributed to ambitious labour market reforms, the employment of Saudi nationals and boosting security levels, particularly in the south where thousands of infiltrators have been attempting to enter the kingdom, lured by lucrative opportunities.
Online reactions to the announcement of the grace period were not supportive amid claims that most of the foreigners staying illegally in the kingdom would not attempt to regularize their situations.
NRIs must respect local laws, says Indian MP JP HEGDE
Saudi Arabia is no exception when it comes to respecting the law, according to Indian parliamentarian Jayaprakash Hegde. “The Nitaqat (naturalization) system must be respected by Indian expatriates since it has become part of Saudi law,” he said.
Hegde is from the city of Managlore in the Karnataka state of India, a city from where a large number of expatriate workers and businessmen in the Kingdom originate. Hegde represents the parliamentary (Lok Sabha) constituency of Udupi Chikmagalur in the Indian parliament.
He spoke to Arab News during a short visit to the Kingdom, saying that the Nitaqat system and Labor Ministry decisions form part of internal government matters and that it is inappropriate for others to speak against it.
The MP said that the time limit for implementation, which will affect hundreds of thousands of expatriate workers, is a matter of concern for Indian parliamentarians, adding that he voiced these views to Indian Ambassador Hamid Ali Rao when he met with him in Riyadh last week.
Hegde said that several Indian parliamentarians have received letters of concern from Indian workers in Saudi Arabia who have requested for him to speak on their behalf before the Indian government. During his visit to Dammam last week, Hegde received numerous requests from NRIs (Non-Resident Indians) from the state of Karnataka on the matter.
“A huge number of Indian expatriate workers are languishing in deportation centers in Saudi Arabia due to a lack of documentation,” he said. “I have requested that the Indian Embassy send requests for information to district officers and higher police authorities for cases concerning NRIs from Karnataka. Furthermore, I have personally spoken with the Karnataka chief secretary to issue directives to district officials to expedite the verification process upon receipt of any requests from Indian diplomatic missions in the Kingdom in order to issue emergency certificates and facilitate speedy deportation back home to India.”
Hegde added that parliamentarians have persuaded Air India to operate direct flights from Dammam to Mangalore and that they are now requesting the operation of direct flights from Jeddah to Manglore. As a result, Air India has seen a significant increase in their profits this year.
NRIs from Mangalore constitute the largest percentage of overseas Indian workers living in Gulf countries, including Saudi Arabia.
Hegde has pledged that he would request the Chief Minister to revamp the current NRI unit for addressing grievances upon his return to India, acknowledging that it has thus far failed to achieve its purpose.
The MP was hosted by organizations for the state of Karnataka during his visit to Dammam, Riyadh and Jeddah.
Fakeih hopes expats will take advantage of grace period
( Jeddah : P.K. ABDUL GHAFOUR)
Labor Minister Adel Fakeih yesterday called on all illegal foreign workers to make use of the three-month grace period given by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah to correct their status.
“It’s a good opportunity for serious expats to correct their situation as there is no justification for the stay of foreigners who work for firms other than their sponsors or for their own accounts,” the minister said.
He said his ministry would provide all facilities for expatriates to correct their status, while urging everybody to cooperate to protect the interests of the nation as well as the labor market.
He said many expats could not renew their iqamas or residency permits because of their own reasons or that of sponsors, who may have slipped into the red or yellow categories of the Nitaqat system for failing to employ the required number of Saudis.
The minister said firms in green and platinum categories would benefit during the correction period as they would be able to recruit those workers of companies in the red and yellow that failed to correct their status.
“This will help them save the expenditure for foreign recruitment,” he added.
He said the correction campaign would help Saudis get more jobs as companies in red and yellow would try to employ more of them to correct their status. He expected platinum and green companies to recruit more Saudis to maintain their Nitaqat position.
“The move against violators will also enable Saudis to open small and medium enterprises and they will not face any competition from illegal cover-up businesses,” he said.
Fakeih said the expats already know what violations they have committed and there is no need of explaining it to them again. He said police would support labor officials in their campaign against illegal workers.
Saudi Arabia appreciates the efforts being made by foreign workers in the Kingdom’s development. “At the same time it asserts that they should follow the country’s law,” the minister added.
~ GN & ARAB NEWS