The maltreatment of third-world laborers in Saudi Arabia is notorious. Part of that is due to the fact that individuals contract for their workers. With literally millions of employers, it’s next to impossible to keep track of how well or how badly they treat their employees. Now, reporters Arab News, the government is looking to create a limited number of private companies that will be responsible for obtaining foreign workers. Saudis wishing to employ someone would have to go through these agencies exclusively.

While there’s certainly room for mischief in this arrangement, it does make monitoring easier.

The article, an interview with the head of the Saudi Human Rights Commission, goes on to other topic, including religious freedom. Turki Al-Sudairi says that there’s simply no place in Saudi Arabia for foreign churches or temples. Because of its unique status as the birthplace of Islam and the presence of the Two Holy Places, he argues, Islam must be the only public religion. He states that non-Muslims are free to practice their faiths privately, in their homes, but must avoid ‘instigating’ [inflaming?] the feelings of Muslims. I’ve already pointed out that there is room to compromise here, if a compromise is desired. It’s clear that Al-Sudairi isn’t interested.

HRC: Kingdom to Change Sponsorship Law Soon
Raid Qusti, Arab News

RIYADH, 28 November 2007 — Saudi authorities are currently looking into ways of changing the Kingdom’s sponsorship law, which would see private companies being given sponsorship rights in place of individual citizens, said Saudi Arabia’s governmental Human Rights Commission (HRC).

“There is an initiative to begin studies (into a system) where private companies will import foreign labor… Communication, hence, would be between citizens, who are in need of foreign labor, and these private companies,” HRC President Turki Al-Sudairi said in an interview with Arab News, the first ever by a Saudi daily.

Al-Sudairi said he supports the change in law, which would bring an end to the existence of sponsors. “I support it. I think it would be better and easier for laborers and for the country,” he said.

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