“Sponsors will be fined and punished for failure to renew muqeem or resident cards of their employees on time,” according to a recent ruling of Jawazat (General Directorate of Passports).
The punishment will include suspension of electronic services being provided to the sponsors. According to the new regulations, the punishments would be doubled in case the violations were repeated.
Also, there was a report that sponsors should not keep the passports of their expatriate employees. Some employers have implemented this ruling, but many have dithered.
This measure, however, is redundant as the sponsor still has a life and death hold over his employees.
Let us not fool ourselves. The present sponsorship system is totally outdated and is a form of slavery. I write this again and again as a citizen who does not want his country to be flayed in media reports.
It’s always the poor employee who is at fault. There are cases where employees have not been paid for two years.
Their cases in the Labor court are lying in either a moribund state or the hearing gets put off repeatedly with the sponsors failing to appear, and their constant pleas for help go unanswered. The modus operandi runs like this.
For a transfer, many of the employers ask for a large sum and if not paid they go and register the employee as “huroob”. In some cases, the employee is coming to the office daily with no knowledge of his “precarious” status.
In a heartbreaking case, an employer asked for SR30,000 to remove the huroob while the poor man’s wife was dying of cancer in a hospital. Some kind-hearted Saudis collected the money to pay.
In another case, a court in Riyadh had cleared an expatriate of all charges against him but the sponsor still held his iqama and did not relent even though the poor man was suffering from a heart problem and living in misery.
Hundreds of similar cases exist. For we repeatedly hear such cases, with varying degree of suffering, and many generous acts of philanthropy.
And I would suggest that the Minister of Labor himself, along with a group of righteous citizen, the Director General of Passports, and members of the Human Rights Commission, visit deportation centers to see and hear for themselves from those detained there.
This is very crucial for obtaining an accurate report that will help us resolve this issue once and for all.
We can emulate Qatar in reforming the sponsorship system. They planned the reforms and then acted on it. Last December, Qatar abolished the kafala (sponsorship) system and implemented new reforms to improve workers’ rights.
The new law replaces the kafala system with a modernized, contract-based system that safeguards worker rights and increases job flexibility, freedom and protection to Qatar’s salaried workforce.
We cannot continue like this. We have to put a stop to this and until affirmative action is taken from the top nothing will be done.
We should not allow some of our ruthless and greedy citizens to spoil the image of our country.
I have said this before and I will say it now. I don’t want the curse of any mazloom (oppressed) on our people and country.
— Reprinted with permission of the Saudi Gazette and Khaled Almaeena. The writer is Editor-at-Large. He can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Twitter: @KhaledAlmaeena