Saudi Arabia has deported 71,118 “illegal” foreigners since its crackdown on migrant workers began on November 4, according to latest figures from the kingdom’s Passport Directorate.
This total is likely to continue increasing because of delays in processing deportations since many of the arrested migrants do not have identity documents. Before carrying out deportations the authorities are also checking criminal records and taking biometric details in case the migrants attempt to return.
Arab News reports that almost 300,000 Egyptians have returned home since the beginning of July and the number of Egyptians in the kingdom has now fallen below one million. Remittances by Egyptian workers so far this year total only 1 billion Saudi riyals ($267m) – a huge drop from 6 billion riyals in 2010.
In Yemen, officials are expecting the total of Yemeni returnees from Saudi Arabia to reach 210,000. Some 130,000 returned during the initial crackdown last March (and the subsequent “grace” period), with a further 80,000 expected during the current crackdown.
Adam Baron reports on the knock-on effects of this in Yemen, in
an article for Christian Science Monitor. In a move to support the returnees financially, the Yemeni authorities are deducting one day’s pay from all government employees – a move that is causing some controversy in Yemen.
Two groups reportedly exempted from deportation are Palestinians and Burmese citizens. Arab News says they will not be sent home, even if they are found to be violating the new labour law, “due to internal strife in their countries”. However, it is unclear what will happen to them.
Meanwhile, the campaign to round up “illegal” workers in Saudi Arabia appears to be losing steam – at least in some places. Street vendors in Jeddah, who went into hiding when the crackdown began on November 4, have now returned in force and are “moving freely in the markets of the historical area selling fruit and vegetables at cheap prices”, according to the Saudi Gazette.
In other parts of the kingdom raids are continuing and perhaps even being stepped up:
“The central region of Qassim in particular, a province that houses a significant number of visa violators, is witnessing intensified labour raid campaigns, where thousands have been arrested.
“Police units continue their investigation in the province to nab violators who had failed to legalise their status during the seven-month grace period …
“Villages, including small hamlets, have been subject to police inspection.
“Arab News spoke with numerous residents in Buraidah, who said that inspections are being carried out on the region’s roads and also in major market areas in the city.
“Iqbal Pullimukku, a prominent Indian social worker, told Arab News that inspection campaigns are being conducted by police personnel up to three or four times a day in some market areas.”
The crackdown also caused many shops to close – probably permanently – and some Saudis are now complaining about losing possessions. The Saudi Gazette reports on a man who left a computer for repair and is unable to retrieve it, and a women whose dresses are in a shut-down clothing shop.
In Makkah, expatriate hospital cleaners went on strike for the second time in a fortnight, claiming that the company which employs them has reneged on an agreement to increase their wages from 400 riyals ($107) to 700 riyals.
This highlights one of the major problems with the kingdom’s sponsorship system for foreign workers. Previously, the cleaners were able to supplement their pitiful salaries by doing unofficial part-time work. As a result of crackdown they are no longer able to do that – hence the demand for a large pay increase.
Saudi officials continue to make upbeat announcements about the kingdom’s “Saudisation” and “feminisation” campaigns. Creating more jobs for Saudis, and especially female Saudis, is one of the objectives behind the mass expulsion of foreigners. Matching Saudis to the available jobs, however, is far from easy.
Teaching is one of the most sought-after jobs for Saudi women but the director of the kingdom’s Human Resources Development Fund has warned that private and government-run schools are “not in a position to absorb” them in the numbers that would be required.
Teaching is one of the few socially-acceptable professions for Saudi women and – unlike many other jobs – the working hours suit mothers with families.
Efforts to “Saudise” and “feminise” the jewellery trade have also run into difficulties. According to Abdulghani al-Muhanna, chairman of the gold and jewellery committee in the Eastern Province, most jewellers’ shops are small – less than 40 square metres – which means it is almost impossible to divide them and comply with the gender segregation rules if they are to employ women.
On the jewellery manufacturing side, where the authorities are trying to press ahead with Saudisation, Muhanna said there is a serious lack of Saudis with the necessary skills: “The number of Saudis who have expertise in this industry in the province is not more than 10 and they are aged over 50.”
About 70% of the kingdom’s gold jewellery factories are thought to be tasatur businesses controlled by foreigners in exchange for a fee paid to a registered Saudi owner. Most if not all of these are expected to close as a result of the crackdown and Saudisation.
Posted by Brian Whitaker
Thursday, 28 November 2013