Grant citizenship to qualified expat workers


Al-Riyadh newspaper

The Supreme Court upheld President Trump’s decision to ban immigrants from certain countries from entering the US. Europe continues to suffer because of the influx of African and Syrian immigrants. Several European countries have put immigrants in miserable camps. Canada, on the other hand, recently announced that it is planning to welcome a million immigrants over the next three years.

Just like the US at the end of the 1990s, Canada views immigrants as vital contributors to its economic progress. However, the US today refuses to let immigrants from certain countries enter. Canada’s decision to welcome a million immigrants is not entirely based on humanitarian grounds. In fact, Canada will only welcome immigrants who are educated, talented or rich. Just like other Western countries, Canada opens its doors to immigrants who are educated or wealthy.

Turkey announced last year that it would give citizenship to Syrian doctors, engineers and holders of college diplomas. Over 40,000 immigrants out of three million Syrian refugees were granted Turkish citizenship within six months.

We cannot blame a country if it attracts qualified immigrants. Europe did this before Turkey. The US did this a long time ago before Europe did. Around 40 percent of American scientists were born abroad. Western countries welcome immigrants who can contribute to building a robust society and economy but they reject poor and miserable immigrants.

Around 10 million expatriate workers live in the Kingdom. How many of them should be given Saudi citizenship? We should first differentiate between highly qualified expatriate workers who will benefit the country and unqualified workers who offer nothing. For those who were born in the country, they should be, in my opinion, given Saudi citizenship because this is a basic right.

We cannot live without expatriate workers. However, we should send back the workers who are unqualified. We should also grant Saudi citizenship to non-Saudi doctors, engineers and college-educated professionals who have been living in the Kingdom for a long time.

The Kingdom ranks second in terms of the amount of money non-Saudi workers transfer to their homelands every year. The US ranks first. The only difference between both countries is that immigrants in the US have become naturalized, meaning US citizens, and generate more money than they transfer whereas in the Kingdom non-Saudis continue to be treated like foreign workers. We lose a lot of money every year because of the remittances that expatriate workers send home.