DIANA AL-JASSEM | Arab News Staff
Monday 3 September 2012
Last Update 3 September 2012 5:09 am
JEDDAH: The black market in iqamas (residency permits) has exploded after the CITC decided that no prepaid SIM cards can be charged, recharged, or balances transferred unless the subscriber enters his or her identity number.
Many illegal expats experienced difficulties when trying to purchase a new prepaid SIM card. Some salesmen are now selling them SIM cards with iqama numbers attached to them.
In other cases, expats with genuine iqamas are trying to benefit from this regulation by helping their friends recharge their mobile phones using their ID numbers for a fee.
Sultan Al-Malik, spokesman of Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC), said illegal expats would not be able to get a new prepaid SIM card unless they had an ID, or a Saudi citizen who sponsored them.
He added: “Some illegal expats, especially maids, drivers and those change their mobile numbers to avoid being caught by their sponsors. These people will not be able to get new prepaid SIM cards. However, if an expat issued five or ten SIM cards with the same ID, we couldn’t ban him where the system allows each individual to get many numbers.”
We don’t have clear statistics on how many illegal expats are using SIM cards, he said.
Some illegal expats wait for the Haj season to buy prepaid SIM cards that are issued especially for pilgrims, said Al-Malik.
“This year illegal expats will not be able to buy pilgrim SIM cards, as even pilgrims will be asked to show their passport ID in order to buy a SIM card,” he said.
Despite the CITC’s restrictions, expats succeed to create new ways to get new prepaid SIM cards.
Arab News spoke to a number of maids who regularly change their mobile number. Each of them has three numbers or more.
Eka Jonathan, an Indonesian baby sitter, said she managed to get a prepaid SIM card with a fake iqama number, but at a high cost.
“When the CITC issued this regulation, my friend told me that she knows a man who sells prepaid SIM cards with an iqama number. I immediately agreed to buy this SIM card since it is the only solution I have. I had to pay SR 400 for this SIM because it had an iqama number,” she said.
According to Jonathan, every restriction in Saudi Arabia could be bypassed through the black market.
Lili Benitto, an Indonesian maid who has no valid iqama as she escaped from her sponsor three years ago, said the new regulation could make getting a new prepaid SIM difficult for her. She would ask one of her friends who has an iqama to get a new SIM for her.
“Our Indonesian maid community stays in one home. All of us are under the responsibility of one boss. He is also Indonesian and has an iqama. He can help us by using his ID,” she said.
She added: “We (maids) already discussed that issue with our Indonesian boss. He will charge each of us SR 100 per month because we use his ID.”
Bryan Mujahid, a Pakistani restaurant worker, said the black market always helps when regulations restrict illegal expatriate. “We break the rules because we don’t have another choice. We have to buy many things illegally or we would not be able to live. The new SIM card regulation will ban us from getting mobile numbers, which is ridiculous,” he said.
He added: “When I went to the market selling mobile phones, I found many prepaid SIM cards with iqama numbers attached to them. I don’t care where they got that ID. My main concern is to get a SIM card as soon as possible.”
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