Saudi labor ministry finally addresses sponsorship system
Minister Mufrej Al-Haqbani’s decision to correct injustice is a step in the right direction.
Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Labor (MOL) followed up his statement on the transfer of sponsorship by launching last Monday an online legal labor consultation service called “Your Labor Consultant” as part of its obligation to ensure justice and transparency in line with the directives of the Kingdom’s leadership.
The new service, launched in Arabic and English, will be made available in other languages soon.
This is a significant development that will ensure justice and do away with the repression and the unfair treatment meted out to workers.
The program has been welcomed by expatriates and Saudis alike. The exploitation of workers has been going on for years by cruel employers and sponsors.
Red tape, bureaucracy and inefficient MOL staff should not be allowed to block the implementation of the ministry’s decisionKhaled Almaeena
I have lost count of the thousands of letters from desperate people who were not paid salaries for months and in some cases years, falsely declared huroub (having run away from their sponsors), forcibly made to sign statements that they had received their end-of-service benefits when they had not and subjected to mental and even physical torture. These people had no recourse to legal aid or counseling.
Minister Mufrej Al-Haqbani’s decision to correct this injustice is a step in the right direction. Prompt and precise action has been promised and wayward sponsors have been warned. However, red tape, bureaucracy and inefficient MOL staff should not be allowed to block the implementation of the minister’s decision.
The sponsorship system is a lucrative trade. There are many cases where workers have to pay money to sponsors for iqama (residence permit) renewal and exit re-entry visas and even have to work without health insurance.
The Minister of Labor should ensure that there is strict implementation of the new transfer of sponsorship rule. He should also show empathy for those caught in official immigration raids and investigate why the documents of these unfortunate expatriate workers are not in order.
I also appeal to the minister to consider the plight of domestic workers, many of whom are locked up and are not allowed to set foot outside of the house in which they work.
They are totally at the mercy of their employers. Their phones are confiscated and many suffer from physical and mental abuse. There are many young Saudi men and women who are willing to work as volunteers to help eradicate this practice. We do not want one aggrieved expatriate working in our country.
We, in the media, assure the Minister of Labor that we are partners with him in his drive to make our country one that practices fair play and provides justice for all.
This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on Jan. 24, 2016.
Khaled Almaeena is a veteran Saudi journalist, commentator, businessman and the editor-at-large of the Saudi Gazette. Almaeena has held a broad range of positions in Saudi media for over thirty years, including CEO of a PR firm, Saudi Television news anchor, talk show host, radio announcer, lecturer and journalist. As a journalist, Almaeena has represented Saudi media at Arab summits in Baghdad, Morocco and elsewhere. In 1990, he was one of four journalists to cover the historic resumption of diplomatic ties between Saudi Arabia and Russia. He also traveled to China as part of this diplomatic mission. Almaeena's political and social columns appear regularly in Gulf News, Asharq al-Aswat, al-Eqtisadiah, Arab News, Times of Oman, Asian Age and The China Post. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter: @KhaledAlmaeena
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