(MENAFN - Arab News) Many expats could not take advantage of the recent government amnesty and legalize their status due to obstacles from their sponsors.
Mohammed Naeem, a Pakistani national, came to the Kingdom in June on a visa for a driver but could not meet his sponsor as he was living in Baha. "I gave 200,000 rupees to the agent and signed a contract with him for a driver's visa, with the salary of SR1200 per month with accommodation. When I reached the Kingdom, my sponsor was not at home and I was told he will come in 15 days," he said.
The sponsor came after a month and said that the date for applying for an iqama was over and that Naeem should pay him SR2,400 plus a fine of SR500 for delay.
"He didn't pay me my salary, he wasn't in the town to arrange for my iqama and on top of it he was asking me to pay for my iqama fess and fine which was not my fault. I already taken a loan of 200,000 rupees to pay the agent for visa and another 100,000 for ticket, passport and other things, and the sponsor didn't pay me salary for the month and was asking for money. I refused to pay and told him that I don't have any money on me," said Naeem.
The sponsor refused to arrange for his iqama and told him to work in a farm as a laborer and shepherd. He claimed he had told the agent that he needed somebody to work a farm.
"I have never been a shepherd or a farmer. I refused to do the farm work and told him that I signed the contract with the agent for a driver's job not a farmer's.
He told me that he doesn't need a driver, as I just have to drop his children at school in the morning. After that I have to work in the fields and herd sheep. He scolded me and the agent and told me that he is not going to apply for my iqama and will never let me go as well," Naeem said.
Naeem sought help from Pakistan Embassy officials, but they said that for a transfer of iqama, he needs to have a no-objection certificate (NOC) from his sponsor as the grace period is over.
"I don't know what to do as I have to pay back a loan of 300,000 Pakistani rupees. Since I came I didn't get my salary and iqama. A friend is helping me to survive. I have no Idea where to go, what todo. I want to work, but there seems no way out. My sponsor would give me neither iqama nor release," Naeem said with tears in his eyes.
Naeem is not the only expatriate in trouble because of his sponsor. There are a number of expatriates who are facing such problems.
Mohammed Anas Iqbal, another victim of a sponsor, told Arab News that his sponsors didn't get his iqama issued in the seven months the amnesty was in effect. Once the amnesty ended, he was asked to pay SR5,000 for a transfer of sponsorship and 3,000 for iqama renewal.
Anas said police in his locality these days are checking IDs and other documents of people on the street but his sponsor is not doing anything. Anas has no iqama and he doesn't know what to do.
"I even told my sponsor that if he doesn't need me and doesn't want to process my iqama, I will transfer my sponsorship to someone else, but my sponsor refused and told me that even for a release, I have to pay him another SR5,000," said Anas.
Another victim of a sponsor, Mounzor Hussain, told Arab News that for transferring iqama his previous sponsor is demanding SR7,000 and the new sponsor is asking for SR5,000 plus iqama renewal fees. Hussain doesn't have any job to earn such money.
Mazhar Kakakhel, Pakistani welfare consul, told Arab News that the consulate can help Naeem as his case is genuine since he came on a driver's visa and contract but his sponsor is forcing him to work otherwise.
"In such cases we can represent him at the labor court and the governor's house as he has been cheated by his agent, who didn't give him full information, and his sponsor who is not giving him his rights according to the contract.
There is a legal way out. He should come to the labor wing of the consulate," he said.
As for those who came on open visas, they are illegal under the Saudi labor law and there is no solution for them.
"They are the ones who are exploited by the sponsors and come to the consulate when there is no way out. Such people should stay in the Kingdom only until the validity of their visa. They should go back on exit and come on new visa with agreement, instead of letting others exploit them," Kakakhel said.