Opinion divided over deadline extension; diplomats renew call

Updated 06 November 2013

Opinion divided over deadline extension; diplomats renew call

Opinion among Saudi businessmen and top-notch professionals is almost equally divided on whether the Saudi government should extend the grace period and on the effects of not extending the deadline.
Mohsen Sheikh Al-Hassan, a prominent Saudi media and PR consultant, strongly urged Saudi officials to extend the deadline to regularize workers’ status instead of sending them back to their countries.
“The Kingdom is still not prepared to replace foreign workers or reduce reliance on them,” said Al-Hassan, adding that the stringent measures adopted by the government agencies have led to the “closure” of several profit-making small and medium-size businesses. “Sending a substantial number of workers back home could be disastrous,” he cautioned.
He claimed that many companies have failed to find qualified Saudis and that nationals are not prepared to undertake many menial jobs carried out by expatriates.
“Can Saudis replace about one million foreign workers,” he quipped. He suggested phasing out foreigners gradually and favored a minimum two-year grace period to streamline the entire labor sector in the Kingdom.
Abdulrahman Al-Zamil, chairman of the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce & Industry, vehemently opposes the idea of extending the amnesty deadline. Al-Zamil, whose group itself employs about 14,000 foreign workers, said that the leftover workers would never opt for rectifying their status even if the Saudi government extends the deadline again. “A number of government incentives, including a salary protection program for expatriates, will be announced after the Nov. 3 deadline,” said Al-Zamil.
But, Mohammad Al-Afaliq, chairman of Alhasa Automatic Bakery, did not support the views and said: “The amnesty deadline should be extended for certain sectors.”
He said the grace period should be extended for expatriate workers involved in the building and construction sector.
Expats awaiting the completion of paperwork should be given time to get their paper cleared, he added.
However, Fawaz Al-Alamy, chairman & CEO of Ajwa Group, believes that authorities have given sufficient time to illegals. “The amnesty deadline should not be extended now,” said Al-Alamy, a top-notch scholar and professional who led WTO negotiations for Saudi Arabia.
Mohammed Al-Hudaib, a Saudi engineer, said: “Two extensions are enough. If another extension is granted, the issue will never be resolved and it is likely that a third extension will be asked again.”
“Some businessmen have joined the chorus demanding an extension because of the genuine problems they are facing in terms of legalizing the status of their workers,” said Tarek Al-Sehlu, another Saudi businessman. He also blamed middlemen for creating problems for workers who were trying to become legalized during the period.
Meanwhile, Asian and African diplomats strongly urged the government to extend the grace period.
The Philippines, Pakistan and Indonesia have renewed calls for extension of the deadline. These countries have sent a note verbale to the Foreign Ministry. Diplomats contacted by Arab News — Pakistani Ambassador Mohammed Naeem Khan, Sudanese Ambassador Abdel Hafiz Ibrahim, Indian Charge d’Affaires Sibi George, Sri Lankan Ambassador V. Krishnamoorthy, Nepali Ambassador Udaya Raj Pandey and Ahrul Tsani Fathurrahman, a spokesman for the Indonesian embassy — called on their compatriots “not to panic.”
The diplomats called on the workers to approach their missions even after the Nov. 3 deadline.
Khan said “the Pakistan Embassy will begin another registration process of workers after Nov. 3 to enlist complex cases and solve their problems.” The envoy said “more than 25,000 workers have been repatriated back to Pakistan during the amnesty period.”
“We are also regularly visiting Saudi jails across the Kingdom to contact Pakistani prisoners with the aim of securing their release and sending them back,” he added.
Sibi George said: “The Indian Embassy has sent a note verbale to the Foreign Ministry with a list of 700 workers who came to the mission during the last few days requesting status correction.”
George said the embassy is also working closely with Saudi officials to help about 1,200 Indian prisoners and undertrials languishing in Kingdom’s jails.
Bangladesh has also requested extending the amnesty period, said a Bangladeshi official.


Cirque du Soleil heads to Saudi in special one-off show

Updated 11 September 2018

Cirque du Soleil heads to Saudi in special one-off show

  • More than 80 artists will take the stage at the King Fahd International Stadium for the show
  • About 250 costumes have been specially made to respect local traditions

MONTREAL: Cirque du Soleil will stage a show in Saudi Arabia for the first time later this month, the high-flying acrobatic troupe announced Monday.
The show will take place in the Saudi capital on Sept. 23 to coincide with the country's national day, public relations director Marie-Helene Lagace told AFP.
More than 80 artists will take the stage at the King Fahd International Stadium for the show, which will also be shown on Saudi state television. Cirque says it will be one of its biggest one-off productions ever.
About 250 costumes have been specially made to respect local traditions and conform to "the artistic standards for which we are known," Lagace said.
The announcement of Cirque du Soleil's appearance in Saudi Arabia was first made in Los Angeles in April, Lagace noted. But it was unclear whether the show would go on given the diplomatic tensions.
At the behest of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia has reopened movie theaters and allowed women and men to attend some concerts together.