JEDDAH: IRFAN MOHAMMAD
Published — Thursday 30 May 2013
Last update 3 June 2013 7:03 pm
Thousands of expatriate women have been flocking to the Passport Department in Rehab district over the last few days to record their biometric details before the July 3 deadline.
The women appear to be mostly from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. The majority are housewives who had arrived with their husbands on Umrah and Haj visas, or had overstayed their visit visas.
There are hardly any illegal or runaway housemaids. The center has been designated to deal with men and women household helpers, but has over the last four days given priority to women who want to regularize their status in the country.
The center is now open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. and sometimes much later.
Hundreds of cars have been arriving at the center in Qaryan Al-Meleh Street before 6 a.m. over the past few days, resulting in lengthy queues.
Three days ago, crowds of frustrated women who had been waiting for long hours to get inside, stormed the main entrance of the building, resulting in some falling and hurting themselves. Others fainted outside under the scorching sun.
Now better arrangements have been made for the crowds, including additional staff posted at the center. A separate gate has been designated for women.
Women have to wait in long queues outside before entering the premises. Only 20 women are allowed at one time inside the room where the biometric scanners are installed to record their data.
All visiting women appear to be in possession of their original passports that contain their invalid Haj, Umrah or visit visas.
Abdul Karim Mohsin Awad, a Sudanese expatriate, told Arab News that he brought his wife at 7 a.m. but she was only able to record her data at 1 p.m.
Mohammed Khurshid Alam from Bangladesh said that he also brought his spouse at 7 a.m. but was able to get inside at noon.
Abdullah Gulzada Khan, a Pakistani, said that he brought his wife on a visit visa three years ago and now wants to return to Pakistan. They have a one-year-old daughter.
Some Arab expatriates and Saudi philanthropists have been handing out water bottles inside to the women and their husbands waiting outside. There is often a rush for the free water by some women inside the premises.
While most of the women leave their children with their husbands outside, some were seen with their little ones inside.