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

    Russian-Backed Offensive in Syria Pushes War to Tipping Point

    As threat to Aleppo and rebel forces grows, US plan to negotiate becomes less and less appealing for Syrian government, says one military analyst

    IS Runs Timber Smuggling Business in Afghanistan, Officials Say

    Government turning blind eye to smuggling, according to tribal leaders; Afghanistan's forest cover dropped by 50 percent in three decades, experts say

    Video White House Seeks $1.8 Billion to Combat Zika

    Obama administration says funding would 'support essential strategies to combat the virus' such as rapidly expanding mosquito control programs, accelerating vaccine research

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenyai
    X
    February 08, 2016 4:30 PM
    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Sanders, Clinton Battle for Young Democratic Vote

    Despite a narrow loss to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in last week's Iowa Democratic caucuses, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders secured more than 80 percent of the vote among those between the ages of 18 and 29. VOA correspondent Aru Pande talks to Democrats in New Hampshire about who they are leaning towards and why in this week's primary.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.