70% of Saudi airports’ passport control officers to be women by next year: Training chief

760 new female recruits are being tranined. (SPA)
Updated 31 July 2019

70% of Saudi airports’ passport control officers to be women by next year: Training chief

  • The second part of the program will involve trainees undertaking a three-day course in automated passport systems

RIYADH: Up to 70 percent of passport control officers based at key Saudi airports could be women by next year, a top military training official has revealed.

The Saudi General Directorate of Passports has started training 760 new female recruits for the soldier-ranked roles, to be assigned to the Kingdom’s land, sea and air entry and exit points. The latest intake will be the second group to pass through the directorate’s training center covering the regions of Riyadh, Makkah, Madinah, and Dammam.

Brig. Gen. Dr. Saleh bin Saad Al-Merbaa, director of general administration for training in the passport department, exclusively told Arab News that the course was part of a preparatory program for passport control officers.

“We are proud to have the largest number of female employees in all ports, land, sea and air, who are qualified and skilled to represent the whole country, not only the passport department. They are the first to welcome visitors to Saudi Arabia and the last to say goodbye,” Al-Merbaa said.

“We can’t deny that females have proven themselves in this major compared to their male colleagues. The international airports in Saudi Arabia are going through a major transformation this year and maybe by next year you might even see 70 percent female staff.

“In the first training course, we accepted 299 female applicants, this year in the second training we accepted 760 female applicants hired as technical officers. The trainees are divided in different locations, 230 in King Khalid airport in Riyadh, 250 in King Abdul Aziz airport in Jeddah, 141 in Prince Mohammed bin Abdul Aziz airport in Madinah, and 163 in King Fahd Causeway in Dammam,” he added.

Al-Merbaa pointed out that training was divided into two parts, the first being two weeks of theory, which included the examination of documents, military and security culture, work ethics and behavior, passport procedures and skills.

“In each course, we make sure trainees get a real experience by providing real materials and objects to practice from. For instance, in the examination of documents course, we provide trainees with a real document that has been forged to give them a sense of reality in what is happening in the ports.

“All of these courses are given by qualified experienced trainers to connect the theoretical part with the practical part,” said Al-Merbaa.

The second part of the program will involve trainees undertaking a three-day course in automated passport systems, in cooperation with the National Information Center. “After that, trainees will be under supervision and observation for 30 days in their assigned work to make sure they are ready.”

Al-Merbaa said that as Saudi Arabia expanded its tourism sector it would need to have employees who could speak a range of different languages in order to meet the needs of visitors from all around the world.

Military training was currently optional for females but would be required in the future, he said. “We encourage females to enter military training even though it’s not required. We already have a group that entered the training which took four months in King Fahd Security College’s female training institute.”  

Alhanouf Al-Enzi, a trainee on the program, said she chose the job because she loved to interact with people. “I see it as a good opportunity for us. We are the second batch, and since I studied English it will help my career, especially in this job, and help me to communicate with visitors in the airports and understand their needs.”

Wafaa Al-Enzi said she had given up a job as a clinic receptionist to join the passport control officer training scheme. “My husband was the first to support me, even at times when I didn’t feel too confident. He was with me during the whole process.” 

She pointed out that working in the forgery department had particularly interested her. “I loved the idea of working in the passport department especially in forgery. It is very interesting and every day you discover and learn something new. I want to develop myself in the forgery department and I’m pretty sure I will learn a lot from the courses provided here in the training program,” Al-Enzi added.

Enshirah Al-Harbi, a former English teacher, told Arab News: “I’m excited to work in a public place, in an environment that allows me to give the best I can for my country.

“I know that I will get involved with old people, some of whom will not know the rules and the system. So, I can help to facilitate them and make their trip or life easier. It is a humanitarian job.”

Noura Al-Fraiyan, a qualified trainer in forgery, said: “I love to introduce the forgery course in an exciting way in which trainees will enjoy their time learning how to differentiate between a forged document and a real one. The trainees love this class.”


Saudi body to help UN devise policies for sustainable living

Updated 13 August 2020

Saudi body to help UN devise policies for sustainable living

  • Saudi Green Building Forum granted accreditation as an observer to UNEP governing body

RIYADH: A professional association from Saudi Arabia will play a key policymaking role at a UN governing body addressing the importance of environmental needs.
Following careful assessment and consideration of the commitments and engagements of the Saudi Green Building Forum (SGBF), the nonprofit organization has been granted accreditation as an observer at the governing body of the UN Environment Program (UNEP). SGBF will play a role as an observer at all public meetings and sessions of the UNEP and its subsidiary organs.
Speaking to Arab News, Faisal Al-Fadl, founder of the nonprofit organization, said that the forum’s mission has been developing for the past 10 years and this accreditation was considered an important step in strengthening the role of Saudi civil society institutions, locally and internationally. This was in line with Vision 2030, which has not only played an integral role in the NGO’s mission but also paved the way for the Kingdom’s people to go the extra mile in building an advanced and resilient society.
SGBF was initiated in 2010 and established in 2014. In 2017, it became the first professional body from Saudi Arabia in consultative status with the UN.
“The Saudi Forum was an advocacy group with an honest voice to bridge the gap; through UNEP we now have the tools to become the policymakers,” Al-Fadl said. It is a challenge that the group founder says will be met by providing communities with the proper tools to implement commitments.
As the observing body on the environmental framework at the UNEP, SGBF’s role will include promoting its concepts and goals to be reflected within the community of change. For change to happen, people of a community at a grassroots level who have committed to the preservation of moral codes of conduct are key to changing mentality and behavior to guarantee a future for the next generations, Al-Fadl said.
“As an open platform, our role is being the honest voice of bridging the gap. Economic and social progress accompanied by environmental degradation and pandemics are endangering the very systems on which our future development and our survival depends,” he said.
SGBF represents the Kingdom and its call to communities, stakeholders, and policymakers to build on the principles of volunteering, advocacy and sustainable development.
For the NGO, their next step is increasing the engagement of civil society, finding solutions to the problem of volunteer integration in societies, and to prioritize and address social challenges for women, youth and the elderly, calling on member states to increase their role in building and developing practices that minimize the negative impact on the planet.
Al-Fadl added that protecting the planet and building resilience was not easy. Without bolstering local action, including volunteers to accelerate the implementation, it would be a long time until goals were met and result seen, he said.
“UN member countries have the responsibility in confronting the human crisis of inestimable proportions, which impose its heaviest tolls on the supply chain for those marginalized and
most vulnerable in cities and communities around the world,” Al-Fadl said.