Saudi Arabia: A Family Man In Hiding – OpEd


Other people’s problems often hit a nerve, a nerve that invokes passion, anger and the need for justice.  Such were my emotions when I read a blog by Ali Shah titled “Our lives-KSA.”  Ali Shah, the CEO of Ali Shah Consulting Services (ASCS) runs several blogs.  He proudly traces his roots to Makkah, directly through the lineage of Ali Bin Abu Talib.  He is the great grandson of Syed Siddique Hasan Al-Qanauji, the ruler of Bhopal state in colonial India.

Ali was an infant, barely 60 days old, when he arrived in this country several decades ago.  He knows of no other home and has become a successful and enterprising entrepreneur, one who has given back to Saudi society in the form of helping Saudi youth find gainful employment.  His other services include providing consulting services to expatriate companies and individuals considering opening businesses in this country.  He also runs several blogs.

The blog piece in question deals with the dilemma of the visa trade.  It reads: “A family man. A man with a wife and three kids. An educated man. He was at my office last night. He had a ‘small’ issue according to someone going through his file.

“He is listed as ‘huroub’ (an expatriate worker who has run away from his sponsor). He has had this status for the past two years. For the past two years, his kids have not gone to school. For the past two years, he has been working illegally as a private driver to make ends meet and running from checkpoints. For the past two years, his life has been hell. His wife has lost hope and become depressed. His kids simply watch TV all day.

“Why does he have huroub status?  His sponsor reported this and gave him this status. And then immediately called him and said: ‘Give me SR10,000, and I will remove this status’. The man sent his sponsor the money and then the sponsor disappeared for a year.

“Suddenly, last week a man appeared from nowhere and told this man that he would fix the status and get him transferred to a new sponsor. This gave great hope to the family. But then, the man called him and said: ‘Oh! You are wanted by the police because your sponsor reported that you borrowed SR50,000 from him and did not pay it back!’

“He never borrowed this money and there was no paper to prove he did.

“The family panicked and begged for a solution. The man said that he would discuss the matter with the sponsor and get a solution. The sponsor, according to him, asked for SR5,000 and promised he would take back his complaint from the police and release him as well. The victim paid this money.

“When I heard this, I went straight to the police station and by luck found a senior officer whom I knew. I asked him about the policy when it comes to reporting money issues. He said they did not get involved unless it’s a ‘bounced check’ case.

“Such claims go to court and he doubted very much that a sponsor would go to court without documentary evidence and even if he did, the judge would summon both parties.

“The huroub victim was tricked again. So far, his expenses have reached SR25,000. And he is ‘illegal’. This means if the authorities catch him with this status, he will be deported and blacklisted with his family. This also means he cannot work anywhere. This means the family is barely surviving. What did he do to deserve this?  What did his wife and kids do to deserve this?

“I told him to leave Saudi Arabia. Be blacklisted. Do not return. He looked at me with a wry smile and asked: after 30 years and penniless? Is this what I get for coming to live and work in the land of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)?
“I had no words in response. Ali Shah.”

While Ali Shah may have been stumped for words, I am angry enough to ask: Why is such a situation allowed to exist?  Why have the authorities neglected the crimes perpetrated against expatriates through visa trading and extortion?  Who are these sponsors selling their visas in the open market and getting rich off hapless workers?  Holding workers in bondage and playing with their lives is no different than slavery.

Why are these Saudis allowed to violate the norms of humanity through loopholes in the Ministry of Labor?  Would somebody answer please!

This article appeared at Saudi Gazette.

Tariq A. Al-Maeena

Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi socio-political commentator and was educated at the University of Denver. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. He can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @talmaeena

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