Time to set things straight

Updated 23 November 2013

Time to set things straight

Saudi Arabia has all the right to carry out a campaign against illegal expatriates. However, the issue does not end here. The big test lies ahead. There is an urgent need for streamlining visa and immigration procedures and to plug the holes in the system that human traffickers blatantly exploit. I read in a comment recently published in Arab News that said nobody wishes to live in a country illegally. The question is as to why they end up working illegally in the Kingdom. Many of them had Iqamas or residence permits; the main issue was they were not working with the sponsors as mentioned in their permits. This practice had been going on for a couple of decades. It is not just the fault of the expatriates; their Saudi sponsors are equally guilty.
However, I do not find it illegal to work somewhere else other than your sponsor. If the sponsor has no job to offer, where would an expat go? If he is not engaging in any criminal activity and just working to make ends meet, I feel calling him illegal and throwing him out of the country is not a nice thing. One thing is for sure, Saudi Arabia will always require foreign workforce. Not because the Saudis are not capable enough, it is because of the size of the country, enormous resources and the huge potential. Most of the developed countries across the world have prospered by allowing talent from across the world to work and live. The Kingdom must reconsider its labor policies. It is the right time for the Saudi authorities to set things straight. Otherwise, after every few years the number of “illegal expats” will soar and the need for another campaign will arise. — Shabbir Ahmed, Jeddah