Jeddah, Apr 16: A number of Saudi sponsors have taken advantage of the need of the foreign workers to rectify their status before the grace period of three months is over to ask for huge sums of money so as not to issue them a final exit visa.
This scenario has caused over-crowdedness by workers and domestics in front of their respective consulates to find a solution for their problem or at least facilitate their travel procedures particularly since many are unable to pay the ransom which at some cases exceeded SR15,000.
The vacant lot near the Philippines Consulate in Jeddah was overflowing with male and female Filipinos forcing the traffic police to rush to the scene to organize traffic.
Some of the Filipino workers said their sponsors told them bluntly that they can no longer retain them lest they may be subjected to punishment after the grace period is over. “This is why we have rushed to our consulate to facilitate our travel back home,” said a Filipino who did not want his name to be published.
Another Filipino said the majority of them could not correct their status because they have been staying illegally in the Kingdom for several years. “Some of them have escaped from their original sponsors and were working for other Saudis,” he added.
He said the violators of the system of labor and residence will face harsher punishment if they are unable to correct their status before the termination of the grace period. “This is why they came to their consulate to find a solution to their predicament or otherwise deport them home,” he said.
Rakan Al-Ayoubi, a Saudi citizen, said he came looking for a housemaid because he and his wife are both working and their need for a domestic is pressing. He said he cannot recruit a housemaid from the Philippines or Indonesia as recruitment from these two Southeast Asian countries has been halted. “I am also afraid that the housemaid may escape and in this case the recruitment office will not refund the money I have spent on her recruitment,” he said.
He recalled that his housemaid became terrified when she came to know about the crackdown on violators by the Labor Ministry and the Passports Department.
“We woke up one day to discover that she was missing. We tried to contact her but her mobile phone was switched off. I think she must have been persuaded by one of the brokers to escape,” he said.
Al-Ayoubi said he was tired of paying large sums of money to obtain a housemaid from the black market. “We are waiting for the crucial moment when the country is cleaned of the violating foreign manpower. When the decision is fully implemented, it will rid the country of the black market and put an end to the high prices. We want to go back to the past system when a housemaid was recruited at a fixed amount of money and was paid a modest salary,” he said.
Many sponsors exploit grace period to make extra money