Friday, November 15, 2013

Riots in Saudi Arabia: ‘The Kingdom expels the same people it exploited’

    Friday, November 15, 2013   No comments

Tensions have been simmering in Saudi Arabia over the past week. Hundreds of thousands of undocumented migrant workers have risen up against the ruling authorities, giving rise to scenes of rioting that the country has rarely seen.

The workers have been rioting over the recent wave of migrant expulsions from Saudi Arabia, which they claim is completely unjust, given the widespread exploitation many migrants have suffered at the hands of their Saudi patrons.


Violent clashes between security forces and migrant workers took place last Saturday in Riyadh, Jeddah, and Mecca. Three undocumented migrant workers died in the violence. Since November 4, the Saudi Arabian Interior Ministry has led a campaign to expel the country’s illegal migrant workforce. That decision triggered widespread rioting among the workers, of whom 20,000 have already been sent home.

It’s not the first time illegal migrant workers have been kicked out. 200,000 were expelled at the beginning of 2013, before the king offered a seven-month amnesty to allow undocumented migrants to get their legal status in order. The campaign’s supposed objective is to fight against the country’s unemployment rate, currently hovering at around 12%.

Foreign workers in Saudi Arabia are considered clandestine when they lack either a residency permit allowing them to work or a ‘sponsor’ [like other countries in the region, Saudi Arabia uses the ‘kafala’ system, according to which each worker must be taken charge of by a ‘kafil’, or a sponsor].

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