“We and the expats” was the title of an article written by Abdulaziz Al-Dhukair in Al-Riyadh and published by this paper. The moment I saw the headline I said: “Oh no, not again!” thinking that this article would be similar to the one written by a certain Al-Dosari who made what many expatriates considered to be derogatory remarks about the foreign workforce in the Kingdom. I had responded by writing that people must stop insulting expatriates.
However, as it turned out, Mr. Al-Dhukair’s article is a demonstration of how many logical and fair-minded Saudis feel about the host of problems faced by expatriates, especially the injustices of the sponsorship or “kafala” system. Mr. Al-Dhukair asks that we review the kafala system and put an end to the suffering of expatriate workers at the hands of so-called sponsors. He is very frank in his assessment of the whole system and he offers solutions.
It, indeed, is heartening to note that there are Saudi writers and other media people along with members of our society who call a spade a spade and not a walking stick. Unlike others who blow their trumpets and indulge in false patriotism, talk about remittances and portray expatriates in a negative light, Mr. Al-Dhukair has come out boldly to address a situation that urgently requires a quick and permanent solution.
As I write this, many expatriates are suffering at the hands of their sponsors. They are victims of mistreatment and of the failure of sponsors to meet their contractual obligations. There are sponsors who have falsely declared that their expat workers are “huroub” (have run away) and others who do not pay salaries on time and who mistreat their domestic workers.
All of these employers should be taken to task I sincerely hope that the Minister of Labor will step in immediately and resolve this matter. Justice delayed is justice denied and we, as members of Saudi society, do not want to carry this burden.
A friend recently asked me why I always seem to focus on the plight of expatriates and domestic workers. I replied that this is a problem that is well known and that we will be held accountable in this world and the Hereafter if we do not make every effort to help our fellow human beings in distress.