RIYADH, Saudi Arabia – Tensions continue to rise following a series of crackdowns that have rippled through Saudi Arabia’s capitol in the last few weeks.
The conflicts are part of an effort to crack down on immigrant workers who have illegitimate visas. Saudi authorities gathered thousands of illegal foreign workers after granting amnesty to formalize their citizenship status.
Africans began demonstrating outside of the Saudi embassy in London as an expression of their unrest with how the situation is being handled following word of an Ethiopian man’s death. Since the sweep began, over 560 arrests and 70 injuries have been recorded.
Illegal workers were encouraged by a police spokesman to surrender at a shelter until they could be deported, given that they are working without proper documents and will otherwise be detained. Amid the chaos, Ethiopians are the most impacted group of workers in light of the recent raids.
Ethiopian Foreign Ministry released a statement saying it “condemned the killing of an Ethiopian and mistreatment of its citizens residing in Saudi Arabia,” according to CNN. A total of three Ethiopian deaths have taken place since the beginning of police efforts to remove illegal foreign workers.
The aforementioned mistreatment refers to a series of police beatings that have been taking place in the attempts to impede the immigrant employees. Protesters are not taking matters lightly, however.
After reports of the deaths circulated to the public, foreign workers began rioting by throwing rocks and knives in the Manfuhah district. National Guards and dozens of police units surrounded the area in efforts to ease the situation and restrain insurgents.
Although Ethiopians have been suffering the brute end of the spectrum with the roundup, the incidents are not isolated. According to BBC News, “nearly a million Bangladeshis, Indians, Filipinos, Nepalis, Pakistanis and Yemenis are estimated to have left the country in the past three months.”
In addition, four million other migrants were reported to have obtained their work permits prior to the deadline that took place. Currently, there are assessed to be nine million migrant workers residing in Saudi Arabia.
Although Saudi Arabia has the largest economy in the Arab world, it still faces the troubles of a 12 percent unemployment rate that plagues its development. Ethiopians immigrated to Saudi Arabia with the hopes of finding a better life.
As it stands, the unemployment rate in Ethiopia is the lowest it has ever been, at 17.5 percent.
The visa crackdown has left the police of Saudi Arabia focused on two distinct types of undocumented foreign workers. The first type consists of those who came to the country illegally, via smuggling themselves across borders.
The second type of worker that police are aiming to deport are those who have the proper documents, but shift from job to job without appropriately informing the authorities.
Many are concerned with the consequences of deporting these workers. Who will fill the jobs of the immigrants once these positions become vacant?
Khaled Al Maeena, the editor-in-chief of the Saudi Gazette stated, “Most of the jobs that are being done are menial jobs. They are drivers. They drive septic tanks, they do work in farms. They do many jobs that the Saudis don’t.”
As Ethiopians gathered in front of Saudi embassies around the world to demonstrate and protest, those that are to be deported were welcomed to reapply to enter the kingdom legally. Many are nervous to see how the situation will unravel between Saudi Arabia and Ethiopian individuals.
– Samaria Garrett