(MENAFN - Arab News) Riyadh Gov. Prince Khalid bin Bandar has promised to look into the issue of nearly 700 Pakistani workers who were swindled out of their life savings when they were issued fraudulent visas.
Prince Khalid's response came during his meeting with Pakistani Ambassador Muhammad Naeem Khan at the governor's office in Riyadh yesterday.
The stranded Pakistani workers are among 1,400 expatriates who were brought into the Kingdom at the end of 2011 by Riyadh-based Turkish firm MAAPA Construction and Trade Co. They are unable to go home through no fault of their own.
According to Naeem Khan, the governor expressed his understanding of the Pakistan Embassy's position and promised that the matter would be addressed as a top priority in order to safeguard the rights of the affected workers.
"The Kingdom attaches great importance to its brotherly and friendly ties with Pakistan as the two countries have enjoyed very close and long-standing relationship based on mutual trust and shared values," said Prince Khalid.
The ambassador appreciated the important role of the Riyadh Governorate in the comfortable stay of Pakistani expatriates in and around Riyadh.
"We have always received prompt support from the governorate at all occasions," said Naeem Khan.
The issue of the stranded Pakistanis was brought to the attention of the Pakistani ambassador last month during the weekly open house event the embassy conducted for its nationals.
A Syrian national and some employees working for the Turkish company's human resources development department were found to have been responsible for illegally procuring visas through online manipulation.
The company immediately informed the authorities and lodged a formal complaint with the local police. The Syrian national and his alleged accomplices were arrested. The Syrian is still behind bars awaiting judgment.
Since the case involved 1,400 illegal visas, the local governorate formed a committee to investigate the scam. A number of government agencies and departments, including the police and the Labor Department, were asked to assist in the investigation.
As the case is still under investigation, all affected employees were barred from leaving the country. They can neither get an exit/re-entry visa nor a final exit. They cannot even get their residency permits (iqamas) transferred to a different company.