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

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.”

Inspiring stories of three Saudi artists who refused to give up in the face of challenges

Paintings by Tahani Faris, who despite suffering from hearing impairment has created inspiring work of art. Artwork/Supplied
Updated 1 min 15 sec ago

Inspiring stories of three Saudi artists who refused to give up in the face of challenges

  • 7.1% of the Saudi population suffers from some kind of disability ranging from mild to extreme, according to the General Authority for Statistics.

RIYADH: Disability can be a social barrier if we let it be. This is the main message from inspirational people with a disability who insist on being visible and integrated into society. Arab News met three people with disabilities who have stories of determination, passion and willpower.

Omar Alsohibany is a 34-year-visually impaired man who is determined to encourage people with different types of visual impairment or total blindness to experience art. Alsohibany is also studying social services.

His main aim is to change the way society thinks about people with disability. “I want to inspire all people with disability in general and visually impaired or blind people specifically to overcome any challenge they might face,” he said.

His experience with art exceeded expectations and he has extended his work to Dubai and Cairo despite the struggles he has faced to prove to himself and society that he is a person with exceptional ability in this area. 

Alsohibany said that the journey of integration and proving himself was full of roadblocks to acceptance and appreciation.

“I suffered from lots of difficulties. When I first joined the special education track for the visually impaired and blind people I noticed that we were restricted to doing only handicraft. That pushed me to think of how can visually impaired and blind people draw and paint.”

Since art was the only way to express himself, he decided to find a way almost nine years ago, asking people with this sort of disability to “see their thoughts.” 

“I then began my research journey for three years,” he said. “In the meantime, I used my opportunity in learning English in the US to connect with experts to know more about the possibility of letting people with blindness or visual impairment experience art and be productive. Unfortunately, the interpreters at the time did not deliver what I wanted to say because they were simply not convinced of my point. I did not get an answer. I worked on myself; I bought the tools and went through trial and error.”

He did not mind the huge effort or experiences of failure. The result was using his Twitter account to share his art pieces with Braille techniques with the world and the publication of three books: One on his views of the Gulf Cooperation Council in terms of art and culture, and natural sightseeing through the use of Braille art. 

Alsohibany has also participated in many exhibitions and events showcasing his beautiful works, sharing his experience and bringing people together. Methods included letting people with good sight paint while covering their eyes to appreciate the blessing they have and to experience how people with visual impairment or blindness live, and letting people with visual disability experience painting and experience masterpieces via touching big textures with Braille art techniques. He also includes names in the Braille language in addition to Arabic and English letters.

“I wanted people with my type of disability to live another life and think out of the box and simply draw and paint. However, I was not satisfied while sitting behind computer sharing my art through Twitter; I started to call event organizers to let me participate in their events and exhibitions. 

“It was another big challenge, the majority refused and many of them did not want to even see what I had, just because I am a person with visual impairment. I gradually started to exhibit my work in exhibitions and events. I participated in different cities and universities and talked with new people to share my art and to say that disability can be another form of showing great ability.”

“We still need lots of enhancements in infrastructure such as elevators, stairs, etc. We still need barcodes at all public places, so blind people and the visually impaired can read and know where they are,” he said.

Amal Alsalhaby, who is blind, is studying special education. Her ambition knows no limits, and her writing talent allowed her to become a journalist and writer at Gharb Alekhbariya newspaper. 

She is also an artist and a public speaker about her experience, and has a dream of being a specialized lecturer on how to communicate with people with blindness or visual impairment.

“I want to see the developments in the public’s mentality and I want to create awareness about people with disability. That is why I chose my major. I went through a lot of struggles. I went through hard times of being not accepted. Acceptance is an issue that can face anyone, not only people with disability.

“This experience has taught excellent lessons; we do not have to make blindness or any type of disability an excuse for not integrating in society. We can take the first step and break the ice. I met people who think of people with blindness as puppets who do not understand anything; through expressing my passion, I wanted to change this idea. People with blindness can be great contributors to their area of interest.”

She said that her integration with society happened gradually after depression and much difficulty. “My main advice is that we all as humans must fall down and stand up alone without the help of anyone. Because this is the only way that can make you believe in your ability and overcome your disability.”

Tahani Faris is a 26-year-old artist with a hearing disability. She has a bachelor’s degree in fine arts. Faris believes that people with all types of physical disabilities can integrate with society when they start viewing society as a place where they can add value “by having passion and expressing what you have in your heart.”

“You will definitely integrate in society no matter how difficult it can be at the beginning. It is our duty to make a difference in our society to help other people with disability live better and dream bigger. I went to lots of courses, not only because I want to learn but because I want to be visible to society. I want to integrate and not be restricted to one community.”

However, Faris believes that there is room for development to enhance the quality of life of people with disability, such as having more events and exhibitions where people with a disability can show their talents, and creating awareness of the importance of learning basic
sign language to facilitate communication.