Dubai, Sep 11: The Saudi Arabian government has heavily cut down the number of seasonal visas allotted for employment of temporary workers in Makkah and Madinah.
Nearly 70,000 ‘seasonal employment visas’ are issued each year to workers who are then permitted to work in the cities of Makkah and Madinah for a short and limited duration.
The workers earn by taking care of the needs of pilgrims in the holy cities.
But the authorities have become strict after a cleaning company last year allegedly sold 2,200 seasonal work visas to agents based in Bangladesh, the Arab News reported.
However, the government directive to curb the issuing of work visas has hurt businesses and has already reportedly led to a loss of 600 million Saudi riyals (around $160 million).
Saad Jameel Qureshi, director of the Makkah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, told Arab News that delays in issuing seasonal visas are deplorable.
He said the cut in the number of visas would directly affect food supplies to pilgrims.
According to him, there are not enough workers to oversee the production of around 26 million packets of food required daily during the Haj season.
The Saudi labour ministry, however, has said that unemployed Saudis should be hired for such seasonal job vacancies.
But, according to the newspaper report, many companies are finding it difficult to recruit Saudis who are willing to work for long hours in the transportation, cleaning and cooking sectors.