Carrots and Sticks

Hundreds of thousands of Haj and Umrah overstayers who arrived in Saudi Arabia before July 3, 2008, can work as domestic workers or for private companies as part of wide-ranging concessions announced yesterday by the ministries of Labor and Interior.

The concessions are perhaps the most far-reaching changes in the Kingdom’s labor law history that will now include allowing illegal workers to leave the country during the grace period without paying penalties. In addition, Huroob (runaway workers) will be allowed to return to their current sponsors or transfer to another.

The joint statement by MOL and MOI shows that the government is serious about the crackdown on illegal foreign workers in the country, but at the same time offers pathways for those workers and local businesses to deal with the issue during the grace period.