Current News

    Burmese refugees to receive job training

    Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal with OIC
    Secretary-General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu at the ceremony in Makkah on Saturday.
    (AN photo by Ahmed Hashad)

    Arab News: 
    March 24, 2013

    Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal yesterday
    distributed free residency permits (iqamas) to the first applicants of the
    Burmese community in a historic move to legalize the status of nearly 500,000
    refugees in the Kingdom.

    “This is one of the beautiful moments in my life,”
    said Prince Khaled while addressing a ceremony at Kudai near Makkah. He thanked
    Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah for issuing his instructions to
    correct the residency status of a huge group of expatriates who have been living
    in the Kingdom for several years.

    “It was one of the first proposals I presented to King
    Abdullah after becoming the governor of Makkah,” Prince Khaled said to the
    applause of the large gathering including OIC Secretary-General Ekmeleddin
    Ihsanoglu and Burmese community leaders. “King Abdullah ordered the formation
    of a ministerial committee for the development of disorganized residential
    districts in Makkah to improve the situation of Burmese Muslims living in those
    districts,” he said.

    “This is one of the unique experiments in the world,”
    the governor said, adding that the Kingdom has taken drastic measures to tackle
    the problem. “We are not just building new homes to develop these districts. We
    also rehabilitate some 400,000 to 500,000 people living there,” he pointed out.

    Prince Khaled said the government would provide
    Burmese community members with health care, social services, education and
    develop their residential areas as part of a comprehensive program. “We’ll also
    train them to get jobs,” he pointed out.

    Under the Labor Ministry’s Nitaqat (naturalization)
    program, the employment of four Burmese is equal to one foreigner. This
    incentive was given to encourage private companies to employ more Burmese to
    meet their labor requirements. “You cannot see such a comprehensive
    rehabilitation program anywhere in the world,” the governor said.

    “This is an unprecedented incident in the world,” said
    Mohammed Tayeb, director general of the Foreign Ministry’s office in the Makkah
    region, while commending the government’s efforts to issue four-year iqamas to
    Burmese citizens free of charge and provide them with educational, health and
    social services.

    Mohammed Rauf Rafi, secretary-general of European
    Rohingya Council in the Kingdom, said there are about 350,000 Burmese Muslims
    in Makkah, Jeddah and Madinah. Saudi authorities intend to issue iqamas to all
    Burmese within four to six months. He disclosed plans to open a media center
    for the Rohingyas at the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.