Saudia:The right to live here

Tariq A. Al-Maeena

IN the face of the current climate of mass deportations of illegal residents, there has also been an underlying wave of resentment from some Saudi quarters against all expatriates.

It is undeniably an unjustified thought and has risen for no reason other than to generalize all expatriates in one melting pot – the good, the legal and the illegals.

But there are many Saudis who do not appreciate this form of venting against the legal residents and have gone in print to express just that to reassure the lawful residents that they are certainly not among the “unwanted.” There is no question that expatriates have played and continue to play a significant role in the development of this country. To deny that would be to deny the obvious.

Generations of such people have come here, lived and worked and have even given birth to their children in this country, many of whom know of no other home than Saudi Arabia. The current climate of raids has hit a raw nerve in one such child of an expatriate who writes:

“Salaam Alaikum. I have read a lot of your opinions in Saudi Gazette, and sometimes I visit the online version of the newspaper. I agree with the opinions you write in the newspaper, and I would like you to write an article regarding ‘Saudi Citizenship’ or ‘Permanent Residency’ at least for Saudi-born expatriates.

“I myself was born in the Kingdom 20 years ago and am still living here. My father arrived in the Kingdom 35 years ago and he is still working as an engineer in the Ministry of Defense and Aviation, King Khalid Military City.

Some expats have lived here longer and contributed to the Kingdom. In return, I feel that the government should at least grant citizenship for the skilled expatriates or at least allow them Permanent Residency cards, like the so-called ‘Green Card’ of America.

“For children like me there is no other home, other than the Kingdom. Today, I live in fear. What if one day by the immigration rules I may have to leave Saudi Arabia? What if my father’s job is over? We would then be forced to return to a country where I’ve never been but which happens to be mine by nationality.

“So what I want, being Saudi-born and bred here, is the following:

•Citizenship for the skilled who have lived continuously in this country for over 25 years.
•Those who were born in Saudi Arabia of legal status and have reached the age of 20 should get the nationality if they so desire.
•If the two points above are impossible, then at least let them be granted ‘Permanent Residency Cards.’

“Many Saudis whom I know ask me if I have Saudi citizenship. I reply to them that the existing system of citizenship is very difficult and getting the 23 qualifying points is not easy for most. There has to be a change in the citizenship system. Some Saudis are even shocked when they notice I have an iqama. They cannot believe I am an Indian, as all my language and mannerism traits have been molded as a result of growing up in this land.

“What I want to state is that after being born here, growing up here and being accustomed to Saudi culture, I have the ‘right’ to get Saudi nationality without too many hurdles. It will be of great justice if at least our voices are heard. Tariq Khan (T.K.).”

T.K. has a valid point. He is a Saudi in all senses of the word except for his passport. He knows of no other country other than the land of his birth to call home. His story reminds me of a poem by Emma Lazarus which is engraved on the footsteps of the Statue of Liberty in New York. A segment of that poem reads, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

It was in the 19th and early 20th century that masses of immigrants from northern, southern, and eastern European countries fleeing hardship came to the United States to be greeted by the Statue of Liberty and processed at Ellis Island. These immigrants then made their way to their new homes throughout the United States fulfilling the realization of their hopes and dreams of a new life in America, and driving the United States to become the most powerful nation on earth. Let us harness the talent and energy of our own aspiring homegrown immigrants in a similar manner. They would certainly contribute to and enrich the social, economic and cultural diversity of the country. They have earned their right to be here.

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