Saudi Arabia has stopped recruiting domestic helpers and farm labourers from Bangladesh while those living in the oil-rich country find uncertainty about how long they will be able to stay there, according to a report published in a front-ranking Saudi newspaper on Friday.
'Although workers in other categories [excepting for domestic helpers and farm labourers] are continuing to arrive in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, those already here, including doctors and nurses, are uncertain about staying here much longer,' Saudi Gazette quoted Waheedur Rahman, minister and deputy chief of mission at the Bangladeshi Embassy in Riyadh, as saying.
'Starting April 2008, no domestic helpers, including housemaids and drivers, and agriculture labourers, were being recruited to work in Saudi Arabia, although no official notification was issued by the labour ministry to the embassy in this regard,' Rahman said.
Around 8,000 Bangladeshi housemaids had arrived before April 2008 at an average rate of 300 arrivals a month, he said.
'Saudi Arabia wants to be self-reliant in farm sector and it can be the reason for the decision to stop recruiting Bangladeshi farm workers,' he said. The minister said that Bangladeshi expatriates in Saudi Arabia were facing problems such as refusal to transfer sponsorship and to extend iqama (residence permit) of the Bangladeshi children, after their turn 18, despite living here with their parents.
'When the parents apply for (iqama) renewal, the authorities give an exit-only visa,' he said, adding that several families have had to send their children, particularly daughters, back to Bangladesh.
'The Embassy receives several calls every day from our workers about the refusal of sponsorship transfer even in professional job categories such as doctors and nurses,' he added.
Hundreds of Bangladeshi workers have been refused sponsorship transfer, he said, adding that the Embassy has taken up the matter with Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs and was waiting for a response.
A recruiting agent told the newspaper that Bangladeshis were being singled out since 'sponsorship transfer of other nationalities is continuing as usual.'
A huge number of Bangladeshi schoolchildren, who are about to turn 18 risk deportation, the agent said. 'This is a big problem facing Bangladeshi families living in the Kingdom, especially those working as doctors, engineers and accountants.'
The Saudi immigration rule states that an expatriate child who turns 18 may stay in the Kingdom on a separate iqama, but under the sponsorship of his/her parent. Negative media coverage about Bangladeshis involved in criminal activities could be reason why all Bangladeshi nationals living in Saudi Arabia are in this fix, the agent said. (by Kazi Azizul Islam )