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04 September 2012

Children of the soil

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By Tariq A. Al-Maeena

A dilemma currently facing expatriates living in this country for decades is the uncertain fate of their children who reach the age of maturity. These families face forced breakups as new sponsorship rules come into effect.

The result is often dreadful to the sanctity of the family unity. 

An expatriate, we shall call MK wrote the following: “Could you please post an article on the children of expatriates who are turning 21 and their residency permits are not being renewed by the Passport Department. Many parents have been forced to send their children on exit visas only these days as Jawazaat is refusing to renew the Iqama of their children.”

MK said that many expatriate parents are suffering under the same situation, “which is sad as they have to part with their children” because it has become “mandatory to send them on exit visas only. No such rules were announced by the Ministry, yet mass exits are happening.”

MK said many parents in the expat community are shattered by the new rules.

“Imagine elderly parents like us who have only one child, our son. He is supposed to be under my support yet I am forced to send him on exit to my country.”

MK’s 21-year-old child is “doing his MBA in Mumbai” and it saddened them that he could not join them anymore here because his iqama could not be renewed.

“Why are our children who are born here compelled to be sent away while they complete their higher studies, and forced to take a change of sponsorship from their parents to any Saudi as their employer?,” the distressed parent asked.

“Some have to pay exorbitant fees ... What about those parents who cannot afford the high charges demanded for transferring their children’s iqamas?”

The writer’s plea is certainly not a unique one. Other expatriate families who have stayed for a long time here face a similar dilemma when their children come of age.

AR, a Yemeni who has been in the country for more than 55 years, tells me that his son whom he had sent to Canada for higher studies can no longer return to the Kingdom as his residency permit under his father’s sponsorship had expired while he was abroad.

Having known no other home besides the Kingdom, the family is deeply distressed and pondering on their next move. 

AR says: “I know no other home elsewhere. This is my home. I have grown here as has my wife. My children were all born here and went to local schools along with their Saudi classmates and friends.

“I have been a hardworking and faithful employee for the last 38 years to a wonderful Saudi family whom I consider as my own family. But this change regarding my son has thrown my life into uncertainty. Where can he go?”

Tariq A. Al-Maeena
AR says Yemen is an “alien country” to his son. “We have no relatives there anymore. They had all moved away in the years past. With no family, he could not survive there. With Saudization being enforced here, it is doubtful that he would find a suitable employer after his graduation from the university in Canada willing to sponsor his stay in the Kingdom. What can we do?’
Such words of anguish are indeed heart-wrenching. One can imagine the pain of forced separation of such families due to bureaucratic rules and requirements.

They pray that the Interior Ministry reevaluates the new rules, considers the human factor in the equation and drafts quick changes to bring relief to families caught in such a difficult dilemma.
Their offsprings are after all children of the soil.

[Tariq A. Al-Maeena can be reached at talmaeena@aol.com and follwed at twitter.com/talmaeena]

(Courtesy: Saudi Gazette)

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