JEDDAH: A number of expatriates, especially laborers, drivers, masons and salesmen have said they would cancel their plans to travel home this summer following strong rumors that exit and re-entry visas would be converted into final exit visas at the airports.
Though passport officials all over the Kingdom have categorically denied these rumors as baseless and false, many workers are not convinced.
Apprehensive of the situation they are demanding a clear-cut clarification of the official position from the Interior Ministry.
“We want a clear statement from the Interior Ministry to say these rumors are incorrect,” a Bangladeshi expatriate who chose to remain anonymous told Arab News.
Some expatriates said the final exits would be given to holders of iqamas (residence permits) with numbers starting with 19. Holders of these iqamas were mostly expatriates who have spent 25 years or more in the Kingdom.
“I have decided with some of my friends not to go home this year in case we are not allowed to come back,” said Hamza Koti, an Indian worker at a cafeteria.
He told Arab News that he would only go home when the rumors were put to bed. “I will only travel when I feel it is right and I am reassured,” he added.
Ali Abbad, another Bangladeshi worker, hoped that no emergency back home would force him to travel. “I am now dreading the idea of going out through any of the Kingdom’s airports,” he added.
Osman Al-Rasheedi, a Sudanese construction worker for a small contracting company, said the rumors have caused him immense worry.
“I hope that the Saudi officials would come out with a clear-cut denial,” he said.
He urged concerned authorities to issue an official statement to quash the rumors. “These rumors could not have broken out without a good cause. There is no smoke without fire,” he said.
A. Al-Eitani, a Saudi who runs a general services establishment and is sponsor of some foreigners, said the news spread very quickly among expatriates. “My foreign employees are asking me whether there is any truth in the rumors, but I have no clear answers for them,” he said.
Al-Eitani said some of his foreign workers who already asked him for exit and re-entry visas have now changed their minds.
“Some of them have clearly expressed fears over their financial rights, their end of service benefits, cars, house furniture and other belongings if their exit and re-entry visas are suddenly made into final exits,” he said.
Reza Salim, a Pakistani salesman, said he would try to issue visit visas to his wife and son because he did not want to travel to visit them.
“I better bring them here on visit visas instead of going to them and never being able to come back,” he said.
Regardless of these fears, some foreigners were adamant they would go on their annual vacations.
“I will travel whatever the case might be. The only difference is that I will make arrangements to ensure my rights in case I am not allowed to come back,” said Hatim Sharafuddin, an Egyptian salesman.
He said he had authorized one of his colleagues to look after his belongings in his absence.