Saudi Arabia is home to around 2.5 million Pakistanis. The problems faced by Pakistani diaspora in Saudi Arabia, related to documentation, can be divided into three following categories;
- Those who have expired iqamas (resident permits) and have never renewed them for years due to non-payment of government fees but are still working and have become Whenever they are arrested by authorities, they are immediately deported back home.
- Those who have valid legal documents (iqamas) but work independently of their sponsors (Kafeel) and work somewhere else (commonly known as Azad Visas). They are also arrested and sent back home. As per laws in Saudi Arabia, it is strictly prohibited to work outside the sponsor and other than the profession mentioned on Residency Permit (iqama).
- Those workers who travel to Saudi Arabia on work visa but their employers fail to provide work to them. In such cases, effort is made to get them employed at other places. Still if they fail to get work, assistance is provided to them to have final exit. It is worth mentioning that in 2022, half a million Pakistanis, came to Saudi Arabia for employment. However, very few of them faced job related problems.
Steps taken by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Pakistan for facilitation:
- The Officers/Officials of the Embassy/Consulate remain available round the clock to provide assistance to Pakistanis’ facing these problems. Three Community Welfare Attaches each have been posted at both our Missions in KSA e. Riyadh and Jeddah. A helpline exists in the Embassy of Pakistan Riyadh and Consulate General in Jeddah; and any Pakistani who needs help in any matter is immediately responded to and all possible efforts are made to resolve issues in coordination with concerned local authorities. Besides helpline, official emails addresses have also been widely circulated among our diaspora.
- Issue regarding Azad visa has been raised with the Saudi side. Azad visa is where worker holds Kafala of one employer but works independently or with another employer.
Steps taken by Saudi authorities:
The local authorities have imposed fines on Iqama transfers. Moreover, Saudi authorities have introduced professional tests for the transfer of sponsorship/profession.
Note: The above information was shared by the Caretaker Foreign Minister Jalil Abbas Jilani with the Senate on November 21, 2023.