News / Middle East

Saudis Round Up Thousands of Illegal Immigrants

Foreign workers hold their passports as they gather outside a labor office, after missing a deadline to correct their visa status, in Riyadh, Nov. 4, 2013.
Foreign workers hold their passports as they gather outside a labor office, after missing a deadline to correct their visa status, in Riyadh, Nov. 4, 2013.
Reuters
Saudi authorities rounded up thousands of illegal foreign workers at the start of a nationwide crackdown ultimately aimed at creating more jobs for locals, media reported on Tuesday.
 
Hundreds of thousands of workers have already left the kingdom following a grace period of seven months during which authorities told expatriates that if they did not fix their legal status they had to leave the country or face jail.
 
The government hopes that reducing the number of illegal workers will create opportunities for Saudi job-seekers. The official Saudi unemployment rate is 12 percent but excludes a large number of citizens who say they are not seeking a job.
 
However, the majority of the kingdom's nine million foreigners are unskilled laborers or domestic workers, jobs usually shunned by Saudis.
 
“Since early [Monday] morning, the security campaign got off to a vigorous start as inspectors swung into action,” Nawaf al-Bouq, a police spokesman, told Saudi Gazette newspaper.
 
Police carried out raids on businesses, markets and residential areas to catch expatriates whose visas are invalid because they are not working for the company that "sponsored" their entry into the kingdom.
 
For a second day on Tuesday parts of the capital Riyadh were unusually empty as many expatriates stayed at home to avoid potential arrest.
 
Challenge
 
Raising private sector employment in a country where most Saudis are in government jobs and where businesses employ more foreigners than locals is a major challenge for the kingdom.
 
Bouq told the paper that at least 1,899 illegal workers had been arrested in the Red Sea port city of Jeddah.
 
The paper also said police had arrested at least 2,200 people in the southwestern city of Samta, 379 in the Eastern Province and hundreds of others in other cities.
 
In Jeddah, dozens of Indonesian workers, mostly women, staged a sit-in to pressure the authorities to hasten their deportation, according to Arab News newspaper.
 
Many workers cannot leave the country because they lack official papers, including passports, the paper said.
 
The remittances sent home by expatriates in Saudi Arabia are often vital for their own nations, which include Yemen, Ethiopia, the Philippines, Indonesia, India, Pakistan and Egypt.
 
Saudi Arabia's mass expulsion of Yemeni workers in 1990 in retaliation for Sanaa's support of Iraq after it invaded Kuwait contributed to an economic collapse that accelerated the impoverished Arab country's 1994 civil war.
 
For decades, Saudi authorities ignored irregularities such as working for firms that had not sponsored their visas or in trades other than those listed on their immigration documents.
 
That spurred a black market in which foreigners overstayed visas, set up illegal businesses or took low-paid jobs in areas where authorities wanted Saudi workers hired on higher salaries.
 
This thwarted implementation of wide-ranging labor reforms to penalize companies for hiring more foreigners than locals.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs