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When our Government leaders fail to protect and ignore the law, who pays? Corporate Executives decide, not what is right or wrong, but what they can get away with. Where is leadership when Government and Corporate Executives conspire and place US Citizens at risk?

The Department of State and U.S. Embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia Denies the Misconduct of American Companies that Confiscation U.S. Employees’ Passports

In Saudi Arabia, American Companies are confiscating American Citizen’s passports. The U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh agree with this practice and encourage it. This practice is extremely dangerous it places U.S. Citizens at risk, violates human rights, and as a nation, sends the wrong signals to struggling nations fighting for human rights issues in Saudi Arabia. An employee in a foreign country has no rights, no proof of validating their citizenship without the passport.

An example of this practice that disregards Saudi law: Computer Science Corporation Arabia (CSCA) a partnership between Computer Science Corporation (CSC) and Technology Boundaries (a Saudi Company) participates in the business practice of confiscating U.S. passports from their employees. The confiscation of the passports (http://www.hrw.org/english/docs/2006/02/07/saudia12622_txt.htm) is a tool to control and intimidate employees. Control is imposed to safeguard several outstanding issues:
• The head of the Minister of Interior (Prince Naif bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud) has a vested interest in CSCA.
• The partnership is operated by an American General Manager, working on multi-million-dollar contracts from the Minister of Interior Organization.
• U.S. Citizens are working on non-employment visas for six months.
The average U.S. Citizen looking for foreign employment is not aware of the environment they are about to enter. This practice sets the stage for the abuse and exploitation of workers (http://www.hrw.org/reports/2004/saudi0704/7.htm) from poorer nations like Indonesia, Ethiopia, Sudan, and Sri Lanka. British Aerospace employees say they retain their passport and have not experienced this problem.

The U.S. Embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia when asked to comment on this issue, “It is within the Saudi Labor law. The law requires that the employers should keep their employees passports while expatriates are employed in Saudi Arabia,” stated Mazen M. Shahan, in an email dated February 21, 2006. Only government officials can confiscate a passport, it is an illegal practice by private industry. The U.S. Embassy in Riyadh is trying to trivialize this practice to help support U.S. Company policies and is not actively protecting U.S. Citizens.

The Department of State was asked to comment on this issue. Michelle Bernier-Toth, Office of American Citizens Service and Crisis Management, stated in a letter dated March 20, 2006, “Under Saudi law, employers typically hold foreign employees’ passports, and such employees may not depart the country without the employer’s permission.” But while “typical,” the practice is not enshrined in Saudi Labor Law. Neither the Department of State nor the Embassy in Riyadh has been able to produce the relevant language from Saudi code legitimizing passport confiscation by private industry.

This is not surprising, because the language does not exist. The Department of State’s Report on Human Rights Practices 2005, (http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2005/61698.htm), states that “the Basic Law prohibits employers from retaining foreign workers' passports; however, in practice most sponsors reportedly often retained possession of foreign workers' passports.” It continues: "The law prohibits employers from holding their employees' passports without the employee's consent; however, this law was not well known to foreign employees and, as a result, was frequently violated.” The assertions of the Department of State, the Embassy in Riyadh and the Human Rights Report is problematic.

On February 9, 2006, the Saudi Labor Court System was petitioned to intervene on a confiscated passport event. The Saudi Labor Court made it clear that a passport confiscated by a private company was considered “stolen property.” They demanded that the CSC / CSCA General Manager return it immediately. While the Saudi Labor Court System should be applauded, its decision highlights further the problems caused by the reluctance of U.S. diplomats to stand up for the rights of their citizens.

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