1 million expats expected to leave Saudi Arabia under amnesty plan

Foreign workers gather outside Saudi immigration department as they try to get visas and legalise their work situation, in this November 3, 2013 file photo, in Riyadh. (AFP)
Updated 18 April 2017
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1 million expats expected to leave Saudi Arabia under amnesty plan

RIYADH: With 70 days to go before the end of the campaign of targeting residency and labor violators, preliminary results are already “positive,” according to officials from the General Directorate of Passports and Ministry of Labor and Social Development.
The campaign is helping violators leave the country without facing fines or penalties for violating regulations. Expats are also exempt from the exit fingerprint requirement, allowing them to return to the Kingdom at a later date legally.
Nineteen government entities are participating in the “A Nation without Violators” campaign, which is seeking to help at least 1 million violators leave the country during the three-month grace period. The campaign, which initially was launched four years ago, has facilitated the departure of more that 5.5 million illegal expats.
Via its Twitter account, the General Directorate of Passports has reached out to violating expats in Urdu, English, Indonesian, Arabic and other languages to inform them in daily tweets about how they can take advantage of the campaign that launched on March 29.
The campaign has resulted in large numbers of violators attending to Passports’ location. Nearly 80 locations received illegal expats across the 13 provinces daily. The locations are distributed between 10 in Riyadh, seven in Quasimodo, 12 in Makkah, two in Al-Baba, three in Asir, four each in Madinah and the Northern Border region, two in Jazan, three in Hail, five in Najran, four in Al-Joudeh, six in Tabuk, and 16 in the Eastern Province.
Ministry of Interior spokesman Maj. Gen. Mansoor Al-Turki said various government agencies are working together to ensure the success of the campaign through joint inspections with security agencies.
Turki Al-Manea, general director of the branch of the ministry of labor and social development in Qassim, said the campaign will likely lead to the exit of at least 1 million violators. He noted that this is the second campaign of its kind carried out in the Kingdom in recent years. The same campaign was first launched in 2013 targeting illegal residents and expats working in jobs different to those they were recruited for. The status of nearly 3 million expats was corrected at the time.
He said the campaign “would revive the economies of companies and establishments and protect small businesses and projects from illegal expats, while also reducing unemployment rates and creating a safe economic and social environment.”
Mohammed Al-Sayegh, director general of Passports in Ar Rass, said on Sunday that the exemption applies to fines and other penalties during the three-month grace period, as well as the fingerprints for deported violators. He said many expats have turned themselves in and departed the kingdom already.
The Labor Ministry, in coordination with public security, held a meeting with recruitment companies in the Saudi market recently to discuss their roles in the campaign.
Adnan Al-Naim, undersecretary of the ministry, said recruitment companies play a very important role in the Saudi market, with the 30 companies having 440 offices distributed throughout the Kingdom. These companies have a 70 percent nationalization rate and very low rates of violations, he said.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Naif urged violators to “take advantage of the opportunity during the allotted grace period, and for all to cooperate in achieving the campaign’s goals.”
He also instructed “involved parties to facilitate the departure of violators during the period and exempt them of penalties.”


Saudis recall history’s greatest TV event: Apollo moon landing

Updated 20 July 2019
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Saudis recall history’s greatest TV event: Apollo moon landing

  • The TV images beamed from 320,000km away in space left viewers astounded but happy
  • The TV coverage influenced thinking and attitudes in the Kingdom just like everywhere else

DUBAI: It was a sleepy afternoon in Saudi Arabia, just days before the end of the school vacation, and Saudis had their eyes glued to their TV sets as they waited for live coverage of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

Before July 20, 1969, the idea of a human walking on the moon was the stuff of science fiction. However, almost overnight, sci-fi had turned into reality with a live broadcast showing American astronaut Neil Armstrong’s dramatic descent onto the empty lunar landscape.

Between science fiction and science fact, the live coverage of the lunar landing amounted to an unusual fusion of news and entertainment.

Saudi TV technicians bring the first live images of Neil Armstrong’s 1969 moon landing to
viewers around the Kingdom. (Supplied photo)

The historic images — beamed back to Earth more than 320,000 km away — left Saudi viewers astounded and confused, but mostly elated to be witnessing such an epoch-making event.

The event was covered live on television and radio stations in Saudi Arabia. Most Saudis and residents living in the Kingdom watched it on Saudi channels 1 and 3, owned by Saudi Aramco.

Hessah Al-Sobaie, a housewife from Al-Dawadmi, recalled watching the moon landing from her grandparents’ backyard as an 11-year-old.

“It felt weird watching a human walk on the moon,” she told Arab News. “I remember the endless questions I asked as a child.”

While most people were aware that going to the moon was risky, many Saudis believed that such a journey was impossible and all but unthinkable.


EVENTS WATCH

1. NASA’s Apollo 11 mission control room in Houston has been restored to its 1969 condition and regular tours
will be conducted by the Johnson Space Center.

2. NASA ‘Science Live’ will have a special edition on July 23 on board the aircraft carrier that recovered the Apollo 11 capsule.

3. A summer moon festival and family street fair will be held in Wapakoneta, Ohio, from July 17-20.

4. Downtown Houston’s Discovery green will host a free public screening of the ‘Apollo 11’ documentary, with an appearance by NASA astronaut Steve Bowen.

5. Amateur radio operators will host a series of events on July 20-21.

6. The US Space and Rocket Center is staging a special ‘Rockets on Parade’ exhibition.


The Apollo 11 mission prompted discussions across the Middle East over the reality of what people saw on their TV screens. Some Saudi scholars found it hard to believe their eyes.

“I watched it, and I clearly remember each and every detail of the coverage,” Hayat Al-Bokhari, 68, a retired school principal in Jeddah, said.

“My father, Abdul, was 56 at the time. He said the landing was faked. He couldn’t believe or accept that a human could go to the moon.”

Khaled Almasud, 70, a retired university lecturer, was a student in the US state of Oregon at the time of the mission. “Americans were stunned and over the moon, happy with their national achievement. But many Saudis like me were either in denial or insisting on more proof.”

Since the beginning of the 1960s, King Faisal had been rapidly transforming Saudi Arabia, inviting foreign-trained experts to help build a modern country with world-class infrastructure.

Billie Tanner, now 90, lived in the Kingdom for many years with her husband, Larry, and their two children, Laurie and Scott, aged six and four. The family had just arrived in Saudi Arabia and headed to the Aramco compound in Ras Tanura in the Eastern Province.

A screengrab of video of the first lunar landing beamed toward Earth and shown on television worldwide. 

“We were going through a culture shock,” she told Arab News. “I wasn’t thinking of the moon landing, but we heard about it on the news from Dhahran.

“My kids tried to see the astronauts on the moon with their binoculars and said they could see them walking around.”

The Apollo 11 spaceflight has become a milestone in the annals of human history and science. Since 1969 space exploration has greatly expanded man’s knowledge of the universe, far beyond Earth’s limits.

The captivating live coverage of the moon landing inspired millions of people around the world, profoundly influencing their thinking and attitudes.

The people of Saudi Arabia were no exception.