The Saudi Arabian government is likely to cancel cases charged under the Huroob (runaway from sponsor) law against migrant workers.

Many Saudi Arabians have abused the law to exploit and harass workers sponsored by them. Thousands of workers from the Indian subcontinent, among them hundreds of Keralites, the Philippines and Indonesia are in Saudi Arabian prisons because of fraudulent reporting of jumping sponsorship.

The Saudi Gazette newspaper, quoting the nation’s Labour Ministry sources, reported on Thursday that the Huroob cases would be dropped to allow a new mechanism to correct the residency status of migrant workers. Undocumented migrant workers have been given a grace period of three months from April 6 by the government before they will be subjected to the Saudisation programme called Nitaqat.

Once the grace period ends, the government will crack down on undocumented workers and companies that do not follow the norms which stipulate that at least 10 per cent of their staff should be Saudi Arabians.

The Huroob law has been fraudulently used by several Saudi Arabian sponsors to keep their workers in dismal conditions paying low wages. Many Indians, mostly Keralites, are now in jail after their Kafeel (sponsor) fraudulently complained to the police that they had run away. The employers do this to make the workers continue to work for low wages or get new visas to import foreign labour.

Worker’s custodian

Under the Saudi Arabian system of employment, an employer (sponsor) who imports foreign labour is the custodian of the worker. The worker cannot work outside the sponsor’s establishments and outside the job for which he has been hired.

But under the threat of reporting to the police as Huroob, the employer is able to keep his workers in his employ paying low wages. However, thousands of Indians, as well as other expats, work outside with the knowledge of the sponsor. For this, most workers are forced to pay a share of their wages or business profits to the Kafeel.

Relief for Keralites

The Huroob exemption will be a great reprieve for hundreds of Keralites who have not been able to visit their homeland for years together.

The Saudi Gazette reported that the Labour Ministry will allow expatriates who are working in establishments that have fallen in the red zone under the Nitaqat norms and whose Iqamas (residency permits) have expired to transfer to other sponsors without the need to renew their Iqamas first.

The red zone establishments are those which do not have Saudi Arabians making up at least 10 per cent of their workforce.

The correction procedures will begin with the Iqama transfer first — before the change of the job title, if needed. The availability of passport is not a condition in the case of transfer from the red Nitaqat establishments. The red establishments would have to fold up once the grace period ends.

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