After a long time, there is finally some good news for expatriates working in Saudi Arabia declared as "absconders" by their sponsors.
The General Services Center of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) has now declared that all expatriates who have been declared as 'huroob' (absconders) by their sponsors can now leave the kingdom without a jail sentence. However, this comes with a few riders.
Until now, expatriates who run away from their sponsors due to various reasons had to undergo imprisonment if they ever wished to get out of the kingdom. A common technique adopted by these people was to go and stay for days together under the infamous Sharafiya bridge in Jeddah, praying that the police would come and pick them up. They would be arrested in droves every single day, only to be replaced with a new set of absconders. After a substantial number of arrests have been made, you would periodically get a news item saying how many 'illegals' were picked up by the cops 'from a den'. Two cheers. I had the misfortune of sitting next to one such guy on my flight home from Dammam and what a tale he had to say! No salary for months together, being forced to work long hours in the open, doing a work completely different from what was promised in his contract - it is the same old story repeated time and again. Click here to read the latest one.
All that is thankfully going to change. As per the latest rule, these workers must now immediately register themselves with their embassies who would issue them emergency passports. The embassy would also make sure that they are finger-printed at the deportation center. All their pending fines, if any, should have been paid and there should be no criminal charges against them. Finally, they should pay for their one-way tickets back home.
The relief given to these people is simply unimaginable. Remember the previous general amnesty where 'illegals' were given the option of returning without a jail sentence? That one did not cover 'absconders' who were forced to go back to their sponsors. The very reason why these people ran away was due to ill-treatment so it made very little sense to send them back to the same people from whom they ran away.
The best part with this new rule is that they should leave within three days from the day they are brought to the deportation center, which means everything would be processed very quickly. As a small service to our fellow expats who are in such unfortunate situations, we must ensure that this information is passed on to each one of them. After all, such opportunities do not come by often. And there is no place as sweet as home.