Brian Whitaker writes: Two people died in Riyadh on Saturday in fights involving foreign migrants, Saudi citizens and police.
The rioting, in the Manfouhah district of the capital – a poor neighbourhood where many East Africans live – was the worst outbreak of violence since the Saudi authorities launched their “all-out” campaign to round up “illegal” workers and expel them from the kingdom.
On Tuesday an Ethiopian man was shot dead by police in the same district, reportedly while resisting arrest.
The two who died on Saturday night are said to be a Saudi man who was hit by a stone and a man of African origin who was shot by police. AFP says a further 68 people were injured (28 Saudis and 40 foreigners) and 561 people were arrested.
An Ethiopian official told AFP that trouble broke out when Saudi police attempted to round up Ethiopians who had failed to regularise their status in the kingdom and move them to a camp which had been specially set up in the area, to await deportation.
Arab News reports:
Armed with knives, the rioters gathered in the district’s narrow streets early evening Saturday, threatening policemen, motorists, and pedestrians, witnesses and police said.
Anti-riot police fired guns into the air and used truncheons to disperse the large crowds, mostly foreigners who appeared to be Africans, notably Ethiopians …
The injured, mostly Saudis and legal residents, have suffered knife-stabbing wounds and bruises from the rioters, who were among those receiving hospital treatment …
A large security force cordoned off the central Riyadh district and closed its entry and exit points, arresting a number of the violent illegal workers and calling on the rest of them to turn themselves in, according to Brigadier General, Naser al-Qahtani, media spokesman for Riyadh Police.
The crackdown on migrants, which has so far been largely ignored by western media, is rapidly turning into a full-blown and self-inflicted crisis. The authorities have clearly spent a lot of time planning for the mass arrests and deportations but seem to have given almost no thought to the knock-on effects. [Continue reading…]