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Mon 13 Jul 2009 06:32 AM

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Permanent residency for long-term GCC expats - official

Saudi representative to ILO says more needs to be done to help foreign workers.

Expat workers who have been living in Gulf countries for 25 years or more should be granted free iqamas (work/residency permits) or permanent resident status outside the sponsorship system, a top official has said.

Abdullah Sadiq Dahlan, Saudi Arabia’s representative to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) also suggested that the kingdom should reform its citizenship system to open the way for long-term legal residents to acquire naturalisation.

“This group of expatriates has become deeply rooted in our society and their return back to their respective countries has become a real problem for them,” he said in comments published by Arab News on Monday.

Dahlan also said more needed to be done for long-term foreign workers.

“We should further develop investment regulations for these foreigners in order to enable them to practice business and trade according to certain rules and without certain fees,” he told the paper.

He said that foreigners working under the sponsorship of Saudis run more than half of the small establishments in the kingdom.

“We have to facilitate the process that will enable the foreigners who have stayed for a long time in the Kingdom to easily obtain Saudi nationality,” he added, also suggesting that such workers should be exempt from having to renew their iqamas every two years.

“The GCC countries and Saudi Arabia cannot dispense with foreign manpower in the foreseeable future. We will continue to need thousands of doctors, pharmacists, engineers, technicians, experts and skilled labor to meet our demand,” he told the paper.

Regarding labor abuses, Dahlan said that 20,000 to 30,000 labour disputes are reported annually in the kingdom but claimed that this was a small number compared to the six million expat workers in Saudi Arabia.

On women’s employment, Dahlan said the atmosphere created by the reformist reign of King Abdullah, had opened doors for the employment of women.

“Thousands of women are now working in the business sector,” he told the paper.

Arabian Business: why we're going behind a paywall

S 11 years ago

I commend Mr.Dahlan not only on his human approach but practical approach to an inevitable situation. Many of these foreigners when returning back to their home country after more than 25 yrs are inevitably treated as foreigners and find themsleves somewhat alienated in their own country. A practical approach is required in reviewing this proposal. I believe many of these forigners would only require a few "Rights"and not even citizenship. The governments of the GCC do not even have to offer citizenship- a simple right of permanent residence - would more than suffice. Under the PR- A right to purchase land or a home, start certain businesses etc. The criteria could also be raised to meet certain requirements -e.g min liquid assets, mandatory health insurance etc.

rashid 11 years ago

We must be careful in whom we give this special rights. We should not give non-believers(kafir) undue privilege

Amira Smith 11 years ago

You're right Rashid. And by the same token, Muslims should not be allowed equal, legal rights in the UK, Europe, America - all these secular or historically Christian countries. Neither should GCC nationals be allowed to study or work within these countries, where a visa means full, equal, legal rights - unlike in the GCC. (You can live here for 50 years and never be allowed to vote.) Does that sound fair to you?

rashid 11 years ago

Amira you have got it wrong. We have never forced people into coming to our country. people like you are migrant workers and are free to leave if you do not like. Unlike the west we do not have double standard, we have very clear in what we want and what is expected from you.

Amira Smith 11 years ago

Enlighten me Rashid - what do you want and what is expected of migrant workers? Looking forward to your detailed response.

raja 11 years ago

It is utter nonsense, linking to religion etc., Before that, advise your countrymen, what they want first? There was a talk of residency cap for few years now, and again it it popping up, if that is the case, what you want to do, residency cap or permanent residency for the long time residents, which one, they are contradictory????? Let them make up their mind first?

Hassan E. 11 years ago

Obvisiouly this guy Rashid is ignorant and narrow minded. I suggest you don't continue this discussion with him.

Pdsa 11 years ago

I think permanent residency is something most expatriates would be looking forward in this part of the world.This would encourage a sense of belonging and give an incentive to people to invest in property/business etc .I hope this policy is implemented soon in UAE.

Al 11 years ago

This is just to make expats re-think from leaving the GCC for good!! It will never happen. Unless there is a change in the geopolitics of the reign and the reign need the population to sustain it's economy growth!! Clearly locals (Origin) population is small vs. the GDP rates (from non Oil & Gas) majority of the non Oil Gas GDP is generated because of the Expats running business and small manufacturing systems and it is because there is no income Tax. After all 75% of expat in skill positions are here because there is no income Tax. It is not about voting rights or secular democracy......!! It is all about saving & making $$$$$$$

ametis 11 years ago

I suggest that you go back and Read The Holly Quaran, because it is clearly obvious that you have not learnt from it..