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Treat expats humanely, RCCI leader urges govt agencies

A leading businessman in Riyadh has accused the Passport Department of “inhuman and uncivilized” treatment of expatriate workers over the past three months.
Abdul Rahman Al-Zamil, chairman of the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce and Industry (RCCI), said the Passport Department, other agencies and individuals should try to follow the example of other Gulf Cooperation Council countries in their treatment of expatriate workers.
Al-Zamil also believes the extra four months provided by the government is not enough time. “The accumulated negatives in the marketplace over the past three decades cannot be addressed during the new time frame of the amnesty.”
He rejected accusations that major Saudi firms and institutions played a major role in exploiting foreign workers and trading in visas. “The majority of the violators did not run away from big establishments.”
He accused small business owners of recruiting foreign workers for financial gain. “After using them, they dumped them onto the streets when the new regulations were issued.”
He said the actions of these enterprises have harmed the Kingdom's reputation. “Looking at the facts, one will see that the largest number of workers who rectified their status came from small and medium enterprises.”
Speaking to local media, Al-Zamil called on the Passport Department and Labor Ministry to set up more offices to accommodate the large numbers of workers and establishments wishing to correct their status.
He suggested using school buildings to deal with overcrowding. “These buildings are not used during summer vacation, are spacious and adequately equipped with air conditioners. What happened during the first grace period was not acceptable or humanitarian,” he said.
“The Ministry of Labor succeeded in rectifying the status of only 30 percent of the workers requiring documentation during the past three months,” he said. Labor offices across the country should change the way they work “so that large numbers of foreign workers can correct their status.”
Any foreign worker wishing to leave the Kingdom should be free to do so without the state bearing any of the costs. The costs should be borne either by sponsors or workers. “Deportation centers will not be able to accommodate the large number of foreign workers wishing to leave Saudi Arabia,” said Al-Zamil.
He said sponsors must be held accountable for their mistakes. “Those who recruited the illegal workers have placed a big burden on the government.”

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