Employers Reluctant to Allow Free Movement of Expats

2015-0202 Employers Reluctant to Allow Free Movement of Expats

THE Council of Ministers recently announced that withholding the passports and other official documents of expatriates by their employers is a legal violation.

Many Saudi sponsors continue to withhold the passports and official documents of their expatriate employees to ensure they enter and exit the country on their terms.

Lawyers have argued that the act is a violation of the law and human rights of foreign workers, Al-Riyadh daily reported.

Hamed Saeed said there should be legal ramifications for expatriates who misuse their official documents.

“This way, sponsors will not feel it necessary to confiscate any papers,” he said, while adding that withholding expatriates’ passports is a harmless practice, as most workers do not need their passports as long as they are in the Kingdom.

“Expatriates only need their passports when they travel outside the Kingdom. Unauthorized exits are what sponsors hope to prevent from happening, as there is no compensation for their monetary losses.

However, the security authorities and other governmental bodies are always keen to protect expatriates’ rights,” he said.

Saeed accused expatriates of exploiting the Kingdom’s legal system. “They are completely obedient and punctual during the first three months of their arrival in the Kingdom, as they know that the first three months are the probationary period.

But once their residence permits are issued, they transform completely and run away from their sponsors to look for anyone who is willing to hire an illegal expatriate for better pay,” he added.

Saeed went on to say that whenever an expatriate worker runs away, the real victim is the Saudi sponsor who will not be compensated for his loss and will have to go through the procedures of sponsoring another foreign worker who may then do exactly the same thing all over again.

Saeed cited the laws of several Gulf countries that allegedly protect the rights of both expatriates and their local sponsors.

“Expatriates are expected to have a work identity card and submit their bank account information.

When expatriates wish to travel, they must produce two witnesses that can identify them.

In the event an expatriate worker resigns, he has to obtain security clearance as part of final-exit procedures,” he said.

In 2012, an Asian driver had killed his 70-year-old sponsor and wounded the sponsor’s 65-year-old wife in the eastern city of Al-Khobar allegedly for not returning his passport.

The man went on to hang himself but the police were at the scene in time to stop him.

The sponsor, who was a retiree banker, refused to give his driver his passport back but promised him that he would return it after Haj.

The official spokesman of the General Directorate of Passports Lt. Col. Ahmad Al-Luhaidan said it is illegal for a sponsor to withhold the passports of his expatriate employees.

“The responsibility of a passport is on its owner. The General Directorate of Passports has a department allocated for sponsors and expatriates’ issues.

With the fingerprint system, the directorate is able to track the status of expatriates and ensure that no expatriate permitted to leave the country illegally,” said Al-Luhaidan.

Mohammad Ahmad accused the directorate of failing to solve problems between expatriates and sponsors.

“The Ministry of Interior needs to build a new and more efficient infrastructure for expatriates’ affairs.

The fingerprint system does not include all of the expatriates in the Kingdom as many of them came into the country before the implementation of the system.

The directorate should request the personal approval of the sponsor whenever the expatriate wishes to leave the country, even for a vacation,” said Ahmad

Khalid Al-Fakhry, lawyer and legal consultant at the National Society for Human Rights, said withholding an expatriate’s passport is a form of human trafficking.

“There are other procedures and security measures provided by the General Directorate of Passports to ensure the stay of expatriates.

It is up to the Ministry of Labor to address the gap between expatriates’ rights and sponsors’ awareness of the laws and regulations,” said Al-Fakhry.

He added that the Ministry of Labor should provide insurance and compensation to sponsors if their expatriate workers flee.

“The bank details of expatriates should also be registered so they can be held responsible for monetary compensation if a breach of contract occurs.”

(Source: Saudigazette.com.sa)

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