News / Middle East

Saudi Migrants Flee Amid Visa Crackdown

Saudi Migrants Flee Amid Visa Crackdowni
X
November 23, 2013 2:11 AM
Thousands of foreign workers are leaving Saudi Arabia as authorities crack down on illegal immigrants. Analysts say the expulsions are aimed at improving employment for Saudis who have a jobless rate of 12 percent. Human rights groups say the migrants find themselves caught between the police and abusive employers. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA.
Saudi Migrants Flee Amid Visa Crackdown
Henry Ridgwell
Tens of thousands of foreign workers are leaving Saudi Arabia, as authorities carry out a visa crackdown on illegal immigrants. Analysts say the expulsions are aimed at improving employment for native Saudis, as the jobless rate hits 12 percent. But human rights groups say the migrants find themselves caught between the police and abusive employers.
 
A convoy of buses reached the Saudi-Yemeni border from Riyadh Wednesday; on board, hundreds of workers expelled from Saudi Arabia - the latest arrivals in an exodus of around 65,000 migrants.

Among them was Ahmed Amin - who says Yemenis in particular are being targeted.

"The crackdown is for kicking out Yemenis in particular, because even if you correct your visa status, you can't work. These days, your work only pays enough to cover your employer’s sponsorship costs. You can't afford to pay to the labor office, the passports authority and everything else from your salary, " said Amin.

Lilian Ambuso from the International Organization for Migration says many of the returnees are in bad shape.

"Most of the cases that arrive are quite dehydrated. This is due to the fact that some of them have been in the detention center for some time," said Ambuso.

There are an estimated nine million foreign workers in Saudi Arabia. Authorities began the expulsions earlier this month after giving foreign workers a seven-month amnesty to rectify any visa discrepancies - which saw tens of thousands of workers leave voluntarily.

There were violent clashes between migrants and police in poorer parts of the capital. At least three people were killed.

The crackdown should be seen in the wider context of the Arab uprisings across the region since 2011, says Jane Kinninmont on London-based policy institute Chatham House.

“The response of the Gulf governments has been to see the protests around the region as partly a response to economic problems, particularly a shortage of jobs for youth. So their policy response has tended to be spending more money, increasing public sector jobs, and also trying to get more citizens into the workforce which tends to be at the expense of expatriates," said Kinninmont.

Labor laws in Saudi Arabia mean many foreign workers find themselves unable to leave, says Adam Coogle of Human Rights Watch.

“You might ask if the situation is so bad, why don’t workers just leave the country? And the problem is they can’t. To leave the country they have to procure an exit visa signed by their legal employer which can be very difficult," said Coogle.

Employers will struggle to replace the workers, says Jane Kinninmont of Chatham House.

“Some of them have skills and some would argue in menial jobs at least, a work ethic that a lot of wealthier Saudis don’t have. Another issue though is pay. Employers find that they can pay migrants, especially illegal migrants, very low wages," said Kinninmont.

The Saudi crackdown comes as human rights groups warn of the widespread abuse of migrant workers in the construction sector in neighboring Qatar - which is building facilities to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regreti
X
Zana Omer
March 28, 2015 1:19 AM
The Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

The Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Virginia Tavern Takes Patrons Back to Medieval Times

European martial arts are not widely practiced and are unknown by most people. A tavern in Old Town Alexandria, outside Washington, wants to change this by promoting these fighting techniques from medieval times. Through combining visual arts, martial arts and culinary arts, this tavern brings medieval history back to life. VOA's Yang Lin and Helen Wu report.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

All About America

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