Fwd: EXPATRIATE TRAVEL STAFF ARRESTED
- In a message dated 3/3/04 6:44:37 AM, rodney@... writes:
<< EXPATRIATE TRAVEL STAFF ARRESTED - SHAVED BALD
ABSOLUTELY, ABSOLUTELY OUTRAGEOUS, SAYS KANOO
By Iftikhar Ahmed, Joe Avance?a and Shahid Ali Khan
The Saudi Gazette
ABDULLA Abo Khamseen, general manager of Kanoo Travel, the largest travel
company in Middle East, has denounced the arrest and shaving of the heads of
three of his employees here last Monday.
The three were among many arrested from the travel sector front desks and
retail jobs in other sectors especially gold and jewelry as part of an
intensified Saudization drive introduced on February 21 [Muharram 1 the start
of the Hijri new year].
These three employees are legally here in the Kingdom. They have the right
visas and are just doing an honest job. Why did the authority pick them up
throw them in jail? They have committed no crime. The authorities should have
come to us, close our office if we have violated the law. But to take it on
those boys is absolutely outrageous, totally wrong, and revolting and you can
quote me on that! Abo Khamseen fumed when asked by The Saudi Gazette about
I stand by these statements. Again, I repeat, it is absolutely, absolutely
outrageous! The action is not correct.
A deportation department source said the only reason for shaving the heads of
those arrested was hygiene. People who have lice in their hair should not
contaminate other people inside the deportation center, the source told The
The official who chose not to be identified said those arrested were illegal
workers. They may have a valid Iqama but their sponsors are different. These
valid Iqama holders work in the travel agencies but their sponsors are not
travel agencies. That is why they were caught, the official said.
Kanoo Travel s Batha confirmed the arrests but said all those arrested have
been released. Kanoo is general sales agent to three major airlines
Airlines, Air-India and Sri Lankan Airlines.
Abo Khamseen said he saw no reason to arrest Kanoo staff.
I want to make it clear that Kanoo is the largest travel group that has
achieved the highest percentage of Saudization. We have achieved more than
Saudization, while the law says only 35%. We are also currently accelerating
the Saudization process. We have a training school specifically for Saudis.
Now my question is why are the authorities targeting our office, picking up
boys and throwing them in jail? The action is absolutely wrong, unfounded,
not called for. It is inhuman, against our religion and unprofessional. The
picking up of the three boys, throwing them in jail, and shaving their head
no fault of their own are totally against any principle. These employees are
If the government does not like them, it should cancel their visas.
Appeal to Naif
Abo Khamseen said the Kanoo Group has taken the case to the highest
We are appealing to Prince Naif, the Minister of Interior, and we will
take our case to the King. We will take our case to the highest office of the
land, Abo Khamseen said.
You don t pick up people in the street, people who are doing an honest job
is wrong. If they (the authorities) don t want these people here, tell them
go back to their country.
Abo Khamseen said the Kanoo Travel office in Riyadh did not receive any
notice from the authorities.
Yes we received various requests from various government departments to
accelerate our Saudization process, which Kanoo, as a responsible Saudi
company, has complied with. The law says the travel sector should have
35% this year, but we have reached more than 50%.
Unlike in the gold business that had been told to achieve 100% this year,
this sector has complied with, the travel sector is only required [to
35% [Saudization]. Had the authorities said 100% Saudization in the travel
business, this would have another story.
What we in the travel business do not understand is that one government
department says one thing and another government department say another. We
the travel business, and others in the other sectors, are often the victims
such lack of coordination.
If everybody interprets the law on their own there would be chaos. Nobody
us they wanted 100% Saudization in the travel business the day before
yesterday. We are following the government instructions. But those
raided the Kanoo Travel office without asking whether we have achieved
Saudization or not, Abo Khamseen said.
The travel sector in the Eastern Province reacted angrily to the arrests.
I have anticipated this which is why some three years ago I started to select
young Saudis we could employ in our company, said Afzal Azam Baig, sales
manager of Emirates Airlines in the Eastern Province.
Another travel executive said the jailing of the expatriate travel workers in
the capital city was scary and intimidating. If you are jailed for just doing
your job, this is difficult to accept. We did not sneak here into the
We were recruited and invited to work. If the authorities feel our services
no longer needed, they can send us back the same proper way, he said.
Many of the travel agencies and airline offices The Saudi Gazette visited
Tuesday were operating with skeleton staff. One ticketing officer of an Asian
airline said his co-employees suddenly look leave of absence after learning
about the arrest of travel workers in Riyadh.
We are ready to go, anytime. They should let us go with dignity and not
coercion, an Indian travel executive told The Saudi Gazette.
In Riyadh, Girish Parakad, an Indian from Kerala who works as sales desk
reservation clerk in a travel agency, said, I have been on guard since this
Saudization campaign started February 21.
Showing his legal Iqama he said he is afraid of being caught and deported to
India. All my colleagues who were arrested and deported had their heads
by the authorities. I would feel humiliated if this happened to me, he said.
Girish is not alone. There are various nationalities that expressed the same
Travel agents said that the situation of travel agencies closing down has
going on for a long time and the agencies are not only losing profit but may
also lose their capital.
They said licensed travel agencies in Riyadh s Badiah, Al-Shifa, Uroba and
Naseem districts, as well as some located along Thakassusi Street in downtown
Riyadh, have downed shutters. These are legitimate travel agencies that lack
Saudi employees, the source told The Saudi Gazette.
But there are a number of travel agencies including one located near the
airport that have no Saudi employees and were visited by the Saudization
authorities but they were not padlocked, an airline source said.
The source added that their colleagues who were arrested in Batha this
were still not released.
In Jeddah, one travel agency worker wondered how end-of-service benefits
be paid to detained and deported employees.
The workers should be paid all the amount due to them before being
he appealed. He asked not to be identified.
The general practice is that only overstayers who do not have Iqama are kept
the deportation center before being repatriated to their countries. Employees
of travel companies are legal residents of the Kingdom with valid Iqamas.
should not be deported before they are paid all their monetary benefits, he
Meanwhile, Khalid Bakashwain, a Saudi sales and reservation clerk in a Riyadh
travel agency, said he is happy in his job.
I got two months training before being appointed in the travel agency in
I am also happy with the salary package I receive SR3,737. My basic salary is
He said he is having difficulty in communicating with expat clients because
his poor English.
While dealing with English-language speaking passengers my Saudi colleagues
some airlines such as in British Airways and Gulf Air, help me, Bakashwain
The Saudi Gazette.
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