Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Reports on runaway workers in thousands

The Saudi Gazette

RIYADH -- The runaway workers section in Riyadh s Expatriate Department gets as many as 4,500 reports of runaway maids and workers a month, according to a report in the Arabic daily Al-Watan on Monday.

The paper said that the department s director would not give any information on the issue, saying that he had no authority to divulge such information. But the newspaper said that there is information that the department receives as many as 150 so-called missing worker reports each day.

The paper quoted visitors of the Expatriate Department in Riyadh as saying that a major contributor is the illegal employment of runaway workers by a number of citizens and expatriates for higher wages.

Fahad Al-Shammari believes that competent authorities including the Passports Department, police, and other, do not enforce harsh sanctions which would be a deterrent.

Offenders are arrested if, by coincidence, they are caught by police and sponsors are required to pay for tickets to send them home even though their legal responsibility for runaway individuals ends upon filing a running away report , he said.

Shammari adds that competent authorities are at times aware of the presence of runaway workers and when a report is filed, the Passports Department and the Police assign responsibility for arrest to each other until citizens give up and resign to the status quo.

Mahmoud Al-Haq, an expatriate, blames the running away to a number of sponsors requiring workers to pay certain amounts upon coming to Saudi Arabia in order to have the sponsor s authorization to work.

These amounts are increased each year. No longer able to bear this injustice, some workers simply run away.The head of the Expatriates Department in Riyadh declined to disclose information on the issue or on the Department s role in curbing the phenomenon on the grounds of non-competence.

However, there is information that the Section of Run-Away Labor, affiliated to the Department, receives more than 150 reports each day, which translates into more than 4,500 reports each month.

A citizen whose subordinate has run away is given a form to fill. The form contains information on the run-away worker and on his/her sponsor.

A list of workers employed by the government is then shown to a sponsor to determine whether or not a run-away worker may be working in the public sector.

On the other hand, the Department requires citizens who wish to retract a run-away report to pay fees of up to SR2,000.A sponsor who fails to report a run-away worker within three days of the running away is fined SR1,000, taking legal excuses into consideration.

Reports are received within three days of the running away incident on condition that the sponsor has not filed a lawsuit against his subordinate with any government authority.

A responsible source at the Passports Department defended the levying of a fine, explaining that some citizens make agreements with their subordinate whereby they are allowed to run away and work for other parties against a fee paid in cash to the original sponsor.

The purpose is to dodge responsibility in case a run-away worker is arrested.

In the case of maids, a sponsor is required to obtain a letter from the Maids Affairs Section indicating that the maid is no longer in his employment.

The remaining reporting procedures are subsequently finalized. The passport of a missing worker is normally handed over to the authorities within three months.

However, an exception is made in the case of maids and drivers whose passports may be handed over within two weeks in order for a sponsor to be able to apply for recruitment of a replacement.

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