By P.K. Abdul Ghafour
Saudi sponsors and agents have been denounced for taking advantage of expatriates’ difficult situation and fleecing them during the amnesty period when foreigners were struggling to have their status rectified.
“The money these people are receiving from expats is haram (unacceptable in Islam) as they got it illegally without any right,” said Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh while giving his sermon at Imam Turki bin Abdullah Mosque.
The sponsors were charging money for a service offered by the government free of charge.
“The (mischievous) activities of sponsors and their liaisons agents have made expatriate workers a pawn in their hands,” the mufti said, adding that those opportunists were obstructing the government’s efforts to rectify the status of foreign workers.
During the first amnesty period, which ended on July 3, the Labor Ministry completed 4 million labor correction cases, including 1.18 million transfers of services. The ministry issued or renewed more than 1.6 million work permits during the period.
Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah extended the amnesty for four months until Nov. 3 following requests from various ministries, businesses and foreign diplomats in view of the huge number of expat workers who wanted their employment and residential status to be regularized.
For many Saudi sponsors and agents it was a big money making season as they demanded huge amounts, from SR3,000 to SR15,000, for changing professions and transferring services to new employers. Some service agents were working around the clock to make maximum money, said one market analyst.
“These scrupulous individuals were one of the major impediments for the speedy execution of the correction process,” he added.Saudis and expatriates have commended the grand mufti for exposing greedy sponsors and agents, saying they have damaged the Kingdom’s values and reputation.
Fuad Kawther, a Saudi engineer, said foreign workers in the Kingdom deserved a better treatment. “Expatriates are the backbone of this country. They build our roads and houses, clean our clothes and streets and prepare food for us. Without them, our lives will be miserable,” he told Arab News. He urged the government to give nationality to long-time expats.