Saudi travelers ignore warnings: Foreign Ministry

Prince Muhammad said there were no statistics to determine the number of Saudis permanently living abroad

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The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has complained that Saudis traveling abroad do not heed its warnings and they still keep traveling to areas of unrest, according to Makkah daily.

“The Saudis do not even bother to register their passports at their local embassy on arrival at their destination,” said Prince Muhammad Bin Saud Bin Khalid, ministry undersecretary.

The prince was addressing a press conference on Tuesday after launching the ministry’s Absher electronic service, which links it with all Saudi diplomatic missions abroad to serve Saudi citizens.

Prince Muhammad said there were no statistics to determine the number of Saudis permanently living abroad due to the absence of a mechanism to register them.

He, however, said there are more than 500,000 Saudis permanently living in Egypt and 150,000 in Kuwait.

Osama Al-Sanousi, director of the ministry’s department of consular affairs, said Saudi travelers avoid registering their passports at the Saudi embassies but they are quick to seek consular help as soon as they face any problem.

He said the ministry has signed contracts with a number of international law firms to defend Saudi nationals before courts.

“The embassies spend large amounts of money to bail out Saudis from police custody,” Al-Sanousi added.

Al-Sanousi said the embassies, though they have legal staff, depend on foreign lawyers because they have licenses to stand before courts.

He said the ministry, through an electronic gate, would enable Saudis abroad to give power of attorney to citizens in the Kingdom.

“The Saudi citizens would, however, have to go personally to the embassy to sign the papers,” he said.

Sanousi said the ministry has electronic links with a number of ministries, government departments and private sector establishments to enable Saudis abroad to complete their official paperwork through the gateway.

He said talks on prisoner exchanges with Iraq were at a standstill because of “inflexibility” from the Iraqi side.

The two countries were to sign an agreement but nothing has happened so far.

A large number of Saudis travel abroad with their families to spend the summer school vacation. However, most of them do not do the necessary homework on rules and regulations in the countries they visit and so end up in legal troubles, requiring the Saudi missions to intervene.

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on June 26, 2014.

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