News / Middle East

Foreign Workers Flee Saudi Arabia Amid Crackdown

Foreign Workers Flee Saudi Arabia Amid Crackdowni
X
November 11, 2013 5:41 AM
Thousands of mostly African workers have gathered in the Saudi Arabian capital, Riyadh, seeking repatriation after two people were killed in overnight clashes between migrant workers and vigilante residents backed by police.

Foreign Workers Flee Saudi Arabia Amid Crackdown

VOA News
Thousands of mostly African workers have gathered in the Saudi Arabian capital, Riyadh, seeking repatriation after two people were killed in overnight clashes between migrant workers and vigilante residents backed by police.

At least 68 people were injured in the clashes Saturday and two killed. Police said they arrested 561 foreigners.

One of those killed was a Saudi, said a government statement, and the other was not identified. An Ethiopian man was killed in a visa raid last week.
 
Ethiopia's foreign minister condemned the deaths, and said that his government was working to bring its citizens home.
 
“This is unacceptable. We call on the Saudi government to investigate this issue seriously. We are also happy to take our citizens, who should be treated with dignity while they are there,” Foreign Affairs Minister Tedros Adhanom said.
 
He also said Addis Ababa had formally complained to Riyadh and that embassy staff were working to help Ethiopians return home.
 
Hundreds of foreign workers clashed with police on Saturday night and into Sunday in Manfouha, a poor district of southern Riyadh where many low-income expatriates live.

The Saudis said earlier this year that they would no longer tolerate visa irregularities which have led to a large black market in cheap foreign labor in the world's top oil exporter. The government began to crack down on migrant workers after a seven-month grace period ended on November 3 for foreign workers to legitimize their status. Saudi media reported that police had arrested 16,000 people by midweek as they fanned out across cities, raiding shops and construction sites.

Saudi officials say during the grace period, four million foreign workers, mostly from Africa and Asia, obtained the right documents and about one million left the country. It is not clear how many illegal workers remain.

Crowded Scenes
 
In Manfouha, a long line of buses slowly filled up as Africans arrived from neighboring streets, alone or in groups and carrying bags.
 
Groups of people in Arab and south Asian dress stood on rooftops to watch. While the scene unfolded peacefully, many police stood nearby and several ambulances were also present.
 
“No iqama (residence permit),” said one man who said he was seeking repatriation to Ethiopia. He said he had arrived in Saudi Arabia illegally a year ago after paying smugglers 5,000 Saudi riyals ($1,333) to make the dangerous trip over the Strait of Hormuz and overland through Yemen.
 
“There's no money at home. Nothing at home,” he said, pulling a suitcase on wheels.
 
Many immigrants say they could not take advantage of the amnesty due to bureaucratic problems or disputes with their original employers.
 
On Saturday, the Labor Ministry announced it would continue to allow foreign workers to rectify their visas, but only if they paid fines for previous breaches of regulations.
 
More than 9 million of Saudi Arabia's 28 million inhabitants are foreigners.
 
While many of those targeted in the crackdown entered the country legally but later broke the terms of their residence permits by changing jobs, many others were smuggled across the border or came as pilgrims and did not return home.
 
International human rights watchdogs have criticized Gulf countries, including Saudi Arabia, for their treatment of foreign workers and for instituting a “sponsorship” system which gives employers extensive control over foreign employees.

Saudi Arabia, the Arab world's biggest economy, is pushing to create more jobs for its citizens and stave off unrest. The kingdom made job creation a priority after uprisings in 2011 toppled leaders across the Middle East.
Some information in this report was contributed by Reuters.

You May Like

Video British Fighters on Frontline of Islamic State Information War

It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for Islamic State alongside other foreign jihadists More

Pakistan's Political Turmoil Again Shines Spotlight on Military

Thousands of protesters calling for PM Sharif to step down continue protests in front of parliament, as critics fear political impasse could spur another military coup More

Photogallery Ebola Quarantines Spark Anxiety in Liberian Capital

Food prices rise sharply as residents attempting purchases clash with security forces, leaving one person dead More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid