SOLVING AN IDENTITY PROBLEM
Raid Qusti & Ali Al-Zahrani, Arab News
RIYADH, 26 July 2006
Scores of foreign women who are widows of Saudi citizens mistakenly remain voiceless fearing to approach the Interior Ministry or other government bodies to rectify their legal status. These women married Saudi nationals visiting their countries and were brought to the Kingdom with their children years ago. “Some of these people have been here for decades and have expired papers. They don’t go to government departments (to rectify their status) fearing that they would be arrested,” said Abdul Aziz Al-Farraj, deputy head of the governmental cooperation committee in the Saudi Charitable Society for the Welfare of Saudi Families Abroad.
Al-Farraj cited the example of an Egyptian woman who was married to a Saudi long ago. One of her children is now married. Despite that, the mother has been living a low profile life afraid of going out, even to perform Haj or Umrah, because her legal status has not been rectified. “These people actually don’t know what to do. Some of them even approach the wrong agency instead of coming to us,” he said.
The society has now been trying to locate these people and help them, Al-Farraj said. He said the society regularly meets with Interior Ministry officials to discuss the problems of these people and process cases that they receive. The society helps Saudis and their families stranded abroad solve their problems, whether financial, health care or legal.
Abdullah Al-Humoud, chairman of the society, explained the society’s role and the services it provides to citizens abroad. He said the society receives cases via phone calls or fax messages to its headquarters in Riyadh. It then coordinates with the Saudi Embassy in the respective country to determine the exact nature of help required. It also seeks information about other Saudis who might need financial or legal assistance.
The society also coordinates with several Saudi government bodies such as the ministries of foreign affairs, higher education and social affairs to solve the problems of Saudis stranded abroad. Among the most difficult issues the society faces is dealing with Saudi families who do not want to recognize the offspring from a relative’s marriage to a non-Saudi. “Some of these cases are difficult. The father in some cases is deceased and the sons and daughters are without proper identification papers,” he said.
In other cases, the Saudi missions receive individuals who claim they are children born to Saudi citizens who left them abroad and failed to live up to their responsibilities. The role of the society in this perspective is to see to it that these people are given the Saudi nationality. It then works on locating the head of the family in the Kingdom with the cooperation of the Interior Ministry and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The next step is to summon him and make him shoulder his family responsibilities.
“We oblige him to face his responsibility toward his family members and bring them back to the Kingdom,” Al-Humoud said. It is not illegal to keep the family abroad as long as they are taken care of, but Al-Humoud said he preferred they be brought to the Kingdom.
“They are cut off from their community in those countries. Sometimes these children fail to get necessary financial support as well as a proper education,” Al-Humoud said, adding that there were at least 3,000 cases of Saudis abandoning their wives and children abroad. He said the society, with the cooperation of other charities and generous individuals, extends assistance to these citizens to pay off their debts, rent and buy necessary house supplies until they are able to return to the Kingdom. The aid is either a one-off payment or provided on a monthly, bi-annual, or annual basis.
The society plays a matchmaking role as well. It helps girls in these stranded families find suitable Saudi husbands in the Kingdom.
The society also pays for the health insurance of Saudi citizens abroad to ensure that they get proper health care.
The society can be reached at telephone 920004949, or fax 920005959.