From: SULAIMAN DAWOOD <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Mon, Apr 1, 2013 at 9:56 AM
Subject: [aijazahmedit] "No clipping of iqamas in ongoing drive"-SAUDI ARABIA
No clipping of iqamas in ongoing drive: MoL
Last updated: Monday, April 01, 2013 12:36 AM
Saudi Gazette report
JEDDAH — As the drive to flush out labor law violators gains momentum, so do rumors that are flying thick and fast. The spokesperson of the Labor Ministry, while putting to rest the rumors about iqamas (residence permits) being clipped by its members conducting the sweep, also emphasized that the ministry is taking its role of inspecting establishments seriously.
A source at the ministry, who preferred to remain anonymous, clarified what is new in the inspection and investigation campaign is that Saudization committees have been placed in the hands of regional governorates. He added that the Interior Ministry is the sole authority in issuing punishments to violating Saudis and expatriates. "Previously the investigation was in the hands of the Ministry of Labor and the process was weak because the ministry did not have the authority that regional governorates have — mainly regarding implementation of punishment. Now monitoring the market has been reactivated and it will be better handled by the committees," he said.
Labor Ministry spokesman Hattab Al-Enezi told Saudi Gazette that their role is to inspect establishments and write reports on violating companies and file them to the Interior Ministry. The aim of all inspections, he said, is to provide a working environment for Saudis to get jobs and start businesses.
Asked about the rumors that inspection team members tear iqamas of violating expatriates, he said: "There is nothing of that sort, it is all rumor and hearsay. We have set up the whole process to proceed in an humanitarian manner."
"Wives of expatriates, however, are not allowed to work and any violation in this context will be documented. The law is applied on all violators both Saudis and expatriates. In each case there are two violating Saudis and one expatriate: The two Saudis are the sponsor and the one who allowed a worker who is not under his sponsorship to work for him. All three parties – two Saudis and the expatriate – will be punished by the Interior Ministry."
The punishment includes fines that range from SR5,000 to SR20,000, stopping the worker from work and deporting him/her to his/her country. Businesses also are handed punishments that include preventing them from services that the Labor Ministry offers.
The committee that goes on these tours include members from the Governorate, the Ministry of Labor, Ministry of Trade, the Municipality, and the Passports Department.
A source in the Passports Department said that a team of officers, specially trained to raid commercial and residential buildings to flush out illegal immigrants, have been deployed from Riyadh. He also revealed that the hype and pace of this operation is expected to continue for another two months.
Similar raids have also been reported from Riyadh and Dammam. When targeting shops and salons, the officers also ask customers for their iqamas and interrogate them about their work and sponsor.
If the workplace and the sponsors' name on the iqama do not match, then the guilty are reportedly deported. It is rumored that some people have seen the officers snipping off their iqamas in front of them.
Meanwhile, a number of private schools across the Kingdom announced holidays on one pretext or the other as many teachers and drivers are not under the sponsorship of schools where they work. A private school teacher said that the fear of being caught and deported has stopped them from going to work.
"We regret to inform that because of a major electrical maintenance work, the school will remain closed until further notice." This was a common text message sent by many of the private schools to the guardians of students.
Some private schools assured their staff of all protection while others told the teaching and non-teaching staff not to report for work. A popular private school in Jeddah reportedly bundled out its teaching staff through the back door when the school guard triggered panic about an impending raid.
Principals of some of the private schools told Saudi Gazette that they had to close schools because the pre-school teachers who are under their husbands' sponsorships did not report for work fearing punitive action by the Labor Ministry.
Indian Embassy schools are reopening Monday after a two-week break. However, school and embassy officials allayed any fears about inspections or school closure.
"I don't think there will be any problem," Surendra Bhagat, Second Secretary, Political and Information at Indian Embassy told Saudi Gazette.
He said Indian Embassy schools have a different status so there is no need for panic. "If there are any issues, we will resolve it with the Saudi authorities," he added.
But there were rumors Sunday about Labor Ministry inspectors visiting the Pakistan Embassy school in Jeddah. School and consulate officials, however, categorically denied any such report.
As the panic of possible exodus due to Nitaqat implementation subsides back home, most of the Indian international schools in Jeddah are racing against time to complete legalizing the status of their staffers, including bus drivers, before reopening of schools for the new academic year.
All schools have stepped up procedures to hire as many Saudi teachers and administration staff as possible. At the same time, some school authorities have expressed their apprehensions that a sizable number of teachers, whose procedures of transferring sponsorship are yet to be completed, would fail to show up when the schools reopen.
Speaking to Saudi Gazette, some principals said that they have almost completed the norms and conditions set by the Ministry of Education. Prof. M. Abdul Ali, principal of Al-Noor International School, said that the school has changed its status to green category after completing all the procedures. "We have hired nearly one and a half dozens of Saudi staffers, besides hiring teachers under the school's sponsorship," he said, adding that the Nitaqat drive would not affect those living in the Kingdom legally.
Dr. Padma Hariharan, of Novel International School, said that the school has employed eight Saudi teachers and took other measures so as to fulfill the ministry's regulations. She said that some schools had hired earlier highly qualified housewives of expatriates as teachers and provided them with intensive training. "These schools are not in a position to complete the transfer of the teachers to their sponsorship. Some of these teachers might not report to duty and this could jeopardize the schools' functioning," Hariharan said while pointing out that her school has made no fee hike while some of the schools increased fees exorbitantly for the next academic year.
An administrative officer of a famous international school told Saudi Gazette that they have stepped up procedures to transfer sponsorship of some teachers and drivers and have already issued letters to their sponsors. Many schools are facing the problem of hiring qualified teachers from India because of the high pay and other allowances they are receiving there. — With input from Fatima Muhammad, Hassan Cherruppa and S. Athar H. Rizvi