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Saudi Arabia eases restrictions for departing Egyptian workers

Saudi Arabian kingdom issues decree allowing workers to return to Egypt without legal repercussions

Ahram Online , Thursday 30 May 2013
Saudi
Laborer in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia, September 2012 (Photo: Reuters)
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Egypt's Minister of Manpower and Immigration Khalid El-Azhari announced Thursday that an agreement has been reached between the Egyptian and Saudi authorities over new procedures for Egyptians working in Saudi Arabia without adequate work permits.

In March, the oil-rich kingdom issued new restrictions whereby foreign workers would only be allowed to work for their legal sponsors and are not authorised to work independently, even if their employers approve.

Saudi authorities gave all foreign workers a three-month period to ensure their status conforms to the new rules.

Many foreign workers enter Saudi Arabia under the sponsorship of a Saudi national but end up working for others, or set up their own businesses.

Spokesperson for the minister Alaa Awad told Ahram Online that this agreement has been issued through a royal decree on Thursday.

As a result, he argues that a new system has been agreed upon by the Egyptian and Saudi authorities to allow all those wishing to return to Egypt to do so.

Those affected are to go to the Saudi deportations office for registration, and they will then be cleared of all holds and allowed to return to Egypt without being detained.

Awad, however, stressed that only those expatriates who have no pending trials or other unresolved legal predicaments will be eligible for the new conditions.

He said that the new arrangements would affect most of the approximately 1 million registered Egyptian workers in the Kingdom, as well as Egyptians visiting Islamic holy sites in Saudi Arabia on pilgrimage who have prolonged their stay.

On Monday, the kingdom repatriated six Egyptians to Egypt following a disagreement with their employment sponsors.

Sponsors of the extradited Egyptians reportedly refused to pay them their salaries or give them back their passports.

Foreign workers in the Gulf are frequently subject to unlawful confiscation of passports, withholding of wages and other abuses. They are also forced to pay their sponsors thousands of riyals to secure a renewal of their work permits.

More than 6,000 Egyptian workers stormed the Egyptian consulate in Jeddah on 16 May, seeking a resolution to their status under the new rules, whether through new employment, legal mechanisms or deportation.

According to immigration officials some 200,000 people, mostly Asians and Yemenis, have already been expelled from the kingdom in the past three months due to the new restrictions.

Saudi Arabia has eight million foreign workers, according to official figures. 

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