JEDDAH: IRFAN MOHAMMED
Published — Thursday 6 June 2013
Last update 13 June 2013 9:38 am
Mohammed Hafeezullah, is an intelligent 8-year-old Pakistani boy, who has been deprived from obtaining an education because he cannot enroll in school. His younger sister Warood is unable to get a polio vaccination.
The situation facing Mohammed and Warood and their six siblings is a predicament encountered by countless other children born in the Kingdom to parents illegally residing in the country.
These children do not have any legal documents, which impedes their ability to receive education and health services. Moreover, new labor laws stipulated by the Ministry of Labor have not addressed the plight of these children, leaving their issue unresolved.
Saudi authorities do no issue birth certificates to children of illegal parents, which therefore means they are left without residence permits.
Hafeezullah teaches the Qur’an and brought his wife, two daughters and his mother in 2003 on a Umrah visa. They have not returned to Pakistan since, choosing instead to remain in Jeddah by overstaying their visa duration. He has had six more children, Mohammed, Talha, Qulood, Asra, Warood and Hassan, all born in Jeddah with no birth certificates.
His eldest daughter was able to obtain a basic education through private tuition and has passed the senior secondary level. However, the rest of her siblings are struggling to receive schooling.
In his house in the narrow lanes near AL-Faisaliya graveyard in Aziziah district, Hafeezullah told Arab News that as the sole breadwinner and caretaker of his family, he could not leave his family alone in Pakistan.
“I approached several middle men to regularize my family’s residence status, Hafeezullah said. “However, they asked for SR 40,000, which I cannot afford to pay.”
Upon hearing the news about the concessions granted to overstaying Umrah and Haj pilgrims, Hafeezullah rushed to the consulate, but was disappointed to learn that the concessions do not include family members and children, but only those who wish to work as domestic helpers.
Hafeezullah family’s story is just one narrative that strikes a cord with several hundred other expatriate families living in the Kingdom. The Pakistani Consulate in Jeddah receives a considerable number of applicants, who line up daily at the consulate seeking to rectify their residency status.
The inability of these children to receive a proper education is a major obstacle threatening their future livelihoods.
Earlier, the community-run international schools used to facilitate private examinations, through alternate modes for these children. However, recently the Education Ministry has discouraged private examinations, open universities and distance-learning methods, thereby making it increasingly difficult for these children to obtain education.
Even more disheartening is the fact that these children have been born and brought up in the Kingdom, with no connection to their countries of origin because they have never visited them.
With the amnesty period drawing to a close, the future of these children remains grim.