News / Middle East

Saudi Deportation Policies Impact Yemen

Protesters outside the Saudi embassy in Sana'a April 2, 2013 object to treatment of Yemenis in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is deporting thousands of Yemeni laborers during a crackdown on undocumented workers. Remittances bring in $2 billion a year to Yemen Protesters outside the Saudi embassy in Sana'a April 2, 2013 object to treatment of Yemenis in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is deporting thousands of Yemeni laborers during a crackdown on undocumented workers. Remittances bring in $2 billion a year to Yemen
x
Protesters outside the Saudi embassy in Sana'a April 2, 2013 object to treatment of Yemenis in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is deporting thousands of Yemeni laborers during a crackdown on undocumented workers. Remittances bring in $2 billion a year to Yemen
Protesters outside the Saudi embassy in Sana'a April 2, 2013 object to treatment of Yemenis in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is deporting thousands of Yemeni laborers during a crackdown on undocumented workers. Remittances bring in $2 billion a year to Yemen
David Arnold
Yemen, the poorest and least-developed country in the Arab world, is facing yet another major crisis.  A recent crackdown in Saudi Arabia against illegal foreign workers has led to the massive deportation of Yemeni workers back to their impoverished country, already wracked by insurgency and an al-Qaida threat that has destabilized large parts of the nation. 
 
Hundreds of thousands of Yemenis could be expelled as a result of the campaign, which began in March with a door-to-door search for illegal workers by Saudi authorities.  The campaign is designed to reduce a workforce of 7 to 9 million foreigners in Saudi Arabia, and it comes as the Kingdom tries to re-invigorate a campaign to entice more Saudis to go to work.
 
“Obviously, this has led to the firing of many foreign laborers,” said Marco Chimenton of the International Office for Migration (IOM) in Yemen’s capital, Sana’a. He said the government of Yemen estimates that a total of about 700,000 Yemenis have lost work in the crackdown because they lacked proper visas or work permits. About 200,000 Yemenis have already been deported.
 
Regional experts say the campaign started slowly but is expected to accelerate soon.
 
“There was a grace period, lots of news advertising, checkpoints and threats to raid places of business for people who didn’t have residency permits or who were working under the table or not working for their official sponsor,” said Adam Coogle of Human Rights Watch in Amman.
 
“There were a couple of days in Jeddah when nobody showed up for work because everybody was terrified about labor raids,” he said.
 
The Saudi government decided to slow the process while King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz announced the first of two grace periods to give foreign workers time to correct their papers or leave the country. The next deadline is November 3.
 
Returning to Yemen
 
Saudi authorities defend the latest moves against illegal or undocumented foreign workers, noting that 35 percent of young people are unemployed and 1.8 million Saudis receive unemployment benefits.  There also have been disturbing reports, fueled by Twitter, of attacks by housemaids from Ethiopia and Indonesia that have reportedly generated a Saudi backlash against migrants. 
 
Ahmed F. Al Fahaid, the Ministry of Labor’s deputy minister for international affairs, said Saudi Arabia also is trying to regularize work standards and requirements with countries who supply migrants.  He said such an agreement was recently signed with the Philippines and similar agreements are being negotiated with other countries. 
 
“The issue with Yemenis in Saudi Arabia is a little bit different,” said Coogle of Human Rights Watch. Thousands of Saudis are of Yemeni descent and many in the Yemeni workforce have been moving back and forth across their common borders to find work since the Kingdom was founded.  “When they first came, the Yemenis were needed to build roads and infrastructure.”
 
“The problem right now is mainly caused by the turn of the screw on foreign laborers that has happened in early March of this year by the Saudi government,” said Chimenton.
 
He said government and IOM teams are headed to the border to assess the needs of the growing number of migrants returning to Yemen, but he says there are inadequate resources to meet their needs.  
 
Chimenton said Saudi buses loaded with Yemenis under Ministry of Interior guard continue to bring Yemenis to the border.
 
“They’ve been doing it during the first reprieve and their doing it now,” he said. “Some of them reportedly have not had time to go home before they are deported and come without their possessions. They have had no food or water for a long time .”
 
The buses arrive sporadically with no coordination with Yemeni authorities and as many as 1,000 people have been dumped on the border at a time.
 
“Everyone is expecting the numbers to pick up now,” Chimenton said.
 
Despite protests, many leaving
 
The Saudi initiative has sparked protests in Riyadh and abroad. In April, Yemenis protested in front of Saudi embassy in Sana’a and about 700 Philippine nationals sought refuge from the crackdown in the compound of the Republic of the Philippines consulate in Jeddah.
 
The Saudi government said that about 200,000 illegal migrant workers voluntary left Saudi Arabia and another 1.5 million corrected their situation by changing their employment status from illegal to legal through their embassies, or by returning home to reapply for new visas.
 
Saudi authorities say foreign workers will continue to play a large role in their country’s workforce, but that all workers should be legal and be regulated. 
 
“Saudi Arabia is becoming a big hub for foreign workers,” said Al Fahaid. He estimates the foreign work force sends home about $30 billion a year. But an adviser to Yemen’s foreign minister estimates that the loss of remittances from the expelled Yemenis will be about $2 billion a year  -- a loss which will be felt by nearly all Yemenis.

You May Like

Multimedia Social Media Documenting, Not Driving, Hong Kong Protests

Unlike Arab Spring uprisings, pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong aren't relying on Twitter and Facebook to organize, but social media still plays a role More

Analysis: Occupy Central Not Exactly Hong Kong’s Tiananmen

VOA's former Hong Kong, Beijing correspondent compares and contrasts 1989 Tiananmen Square protest with what is now happening in Hong Kong More

Bambari Hospital a Lone Place of Help in Violence-Plagued CAR

Only establishment still functioning in CAR's second city is main hospital More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid