Free Saudi Iqama, Free Education to 125,000 Burmese in Saudi Arabia

The government of Saudi Arabia has yet again set an unprecedented record by allowing around 125,000 Myanmar nationals residency in the Kingdom who were previously refugees. The department of passports in Makkah has corrected the residence status of around 125,000 Myanmar nationals.  This feat was achieved by allowing the 125,000 people residency cards without any fees for the duration of four years. This status correction process had started on the instructions of the Governor of Makkah Prince Khaled Al Faisal back in 2014 and has received much appreciation from the United Nations Delegation.[irp]

This new residency card for the Myanmar nationals will enable them to attain free education, free treatment and also employment in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The local media in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia took a tour of the passport department and were accompanied by the chairman of the correction committee, Colonel Mohammad Maqboul Al Jahni and the official spokesman for the department of passports, Colonel Mohammad bin Abdullah Al Hussein. The two colonels gave a detailed explanation of how the correction mechanism is working.

The correction procedure starts with ensuring that the Myanmar national does not have any prior criminal record and also no security notices in the Kingdom. When this is cleared the second stage starts which include completing the individual's personal file which has medical tests, passport application and a stamped printout from the Labor office in the case of the sponsor being an establishment or company. If the sponsor is an individual, then they would have to meet the regulations in respect to the number of family members and financial strength. Finally, the third stage has two paths; the first one is related to those beneficiaries that do not have any computer record.

Their data is registered on the computer and then the individual will be assigned a sponsor before being given a 4-year residency. The second path involves those expatriate individuals who have a computer record. The procedure for them would be to amend and add the relevant data, transfer the sponsorship and then have a four-year visa assigned to them.

Recently a delegation from the UNHCR or United Nations High Commission for Refugees had visited the Kingdom in order to study this experience in the formalization of the status of residence of the refugees who are natives of Myanmar. The team from the UN described their experience in the Kingdom with the community of Burmese Refugees as an example and role model which should and could be taken up by other countries all over the world.[irp]

Nabil Othman, the acting regional representative in the GCC of the UNHCR stated that he has appreciated the efforts made by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in order to correct the residency status of more than a hundred thousand refugees. This process has been described as a pioneering experiment as it is in accordance with the humanitarian specifications, without any discrimination to race and ethnicity.

Source: Arab News