My earlier (click here) seems to have touched a raw nerve among expats working in Saudi Arabia. There has been an outpouring of emotion from the numerous mails I received and considering the sensitivity of where we live in, I decided not to publish them. However, things seem to be happening the way it was predicted.
After the initial protests by businessmen, what I had feared most unfortunately became true. Companies stopped renewing the iqamas of their expat workers. So, overnight thousands of workers would now become illegal aliens in the kingdom for residing without a valid iqama and hence, could be imprisoned for no fault of theirs, just because their sponsors did not renew their iqamas. Sanitory workers in Mecca went on strike as the company which employed them simply could not afford to pay SR2400 per worker per year more as penalty. As protests as well as garbage started mounting, Mecca municipality agreed to renew the iqamas of the workers. These poor guys get paid only SR250 per month and live in the most pitiable conditions you could ever imagine in the kingdom of humanity. The company which hired them says they could not find Saudis to work as janitors and sanitary workers. After all, who wants to do the dirty job of clearing garbage, something below the dignity, when there are poor expatriates to do it? Here is one job which would never be Saudized !
Okay, so the news is that once Mecca municipality agreed to renew the iqamas, the strike was called off. Take a look at this link. Remember, the municipality had to intervene not because they wanted to help the poor expat workers, not because they wanted to improve their living conditions, but because citizens started protesting as garbage started to pile up. This is just the tip of the iceberg. What about other company workers who are not involved in sanitary work? We get a hint that the rule would be relaxed / revoked / diluted as the labor minister says that it is up to the cabinet to revoke it and that he would "inform the higher authorities of the effect of implementing the decision". See this.
So, as expected we can hope for a rollback of this rule very soon (as usual)!