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

Hostage Crisis Could Divide Japan Over Plans to Boost Military

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Monday the government is working closely with the Jordanian government to secure the release of remaining Japanese hostage Kenji Goto More

Video Brussels Shaken as New Greek Leader Challenges Europe’s Austerity Drive

Country's youngest ever PM Alexis Tsipras, 40, sworn in Monday and says he will restore dignity to Greece by ending spending cuts More

Multimedia National Geographic Photo Camps Empower Youth

Annual mentoring program's mission is to give young people a voice to tell their own stories through photography More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visiti
X
Aru Pande
January 26, 2015 9:33 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video US, EU Threaten New Russia Sanctions Over Ukraine

U.S. President Barack Obama has blamed Russia for an attack by Ukrainian separatists that left dozens dead in the port of Mariupol and cast further doubt on the viability of last year’s cease-fire with the Kyiv government. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Kerry Warns Against Violence in Nigeria Election

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Nigeria Sunday in a show of the level of concern within the U.S. and the international community over next month’s presidential election. Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Saudi, Yemen Developments Are Sudden Complications for Obama

The death of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and the collapse of Yemen’s government have cast further uncertainty on U.S. efforts to fight militants in the Middle East and also contain Iran’s influence in the region. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports on the new complications facing the Obama administration and its Middle East policy.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid