Jul 07 2011
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Saudi Arabia: Unaware of their rights, expats are subject to exploitation
Mistreatment and abuse of expatriates is a serious issue that can be addressed through the proper legal channels. There are laws entitling expatriates to rights in the country, yet some are suffering.
Most do not wish to take action on the issue if a Saudi is involved because they fear being sent home on a final exit visa.
K.K. is an employee at a construction company. Asked if he was aware of his rights, he said, "No, I'm not aware of my rights as an expatriate citizen. And it's unfortunate that I have to rely on the information given to me by my company. The company is my only channel of communication with the legal system in case any unfortunate incident takes place.
K.K. said there was a general perception among the expatriate community that pursuing a legal lawsuit against a Saudi would be a waste of time.
"First, proper information is not provided to those who wish to go ahead with a lawsuit," he said.
"Secondly, the proper means are not provided. And thirdly, if certain means are provided, the results would not be satisfactory. This results in the entire process being very time consuming and with all these factors put together, we have a system that actually discourages expatriates to pursue their rights."
Zahran Khan, a tennis coach, said: "A Saudi owed a lot of money to our family, because my dad worked and managed this guy's business. He promised to repay him after five years. But the Saudi refused to pay back our money and we couldn't take action because he was our sponsor and my family feared that if we tried to take this to court, we would be sent home on a final exit visa."
Asked if he knew that Saudi law protects Saudis and expatriates alike, Khan said he was not aware.
Khan said another reason that prevented him from filing a lawsuit was because he believed he could not win against a Saudi in a court of law. Asked why do most expatriates feel that way, he said, "It's their country, they can do as they please. We are powerless here."
Khan added: "People should be made aware of their rights, especially those who are working in lower positions. They travel to the Kingdom to provide their families with a better life. Those are the ones who are exploited the worst. If there is an argument, their sponsors threaten them with the final exit visa, and the issue is dismissed."
"Compared to other countries where citizens and migrant workers are informed about their rights diligently, the Kingdom needs to take more initiative in making its expatriate community more aware of its rights," said Z. Akhtar, a former expatriate who lived in Yanbu.
Shaza K., a student who used to live in Saudi Arabia, on the other hand claimed expatriates enjoy a better life in the Kingdom than citizens.
"I wasn't aware of my rights as an expat in the country ... (however) Saudis are not allowed to live in compounds and they are not allowed to attend international schools. It's their country, yet sometimes it felt like mine. In my opinion, if they were allowed to attend international schools, the need for the Nitaqat program would have never arisen."
EXPATRIATES' RIGHTS (All conditions must be agreed in the contract)
•Timely payment of monthly salary as agreed upon and signed in employment contract in home country;
•Sponsor is to pay the cost of the residence permit on arrival, its renewal, exit/re-entry visas as well as final exit visa fees;
•Fully paid vacation;
•Free accommodation or equivalent amount;
•Free health care. Health insurance for every expatriate is compulsory and the cost is to be borne by the sponsor;
•Payment of End of Service Benefits at the end of the contract
© Arab News 2011
© Copyright Zawya. All Rights Reserved.
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