Crackdown on migrants: Saudi Arabia’s self-inflicted crisis

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 Riyadh Connect website has a collection of photos and videos from the scene. Twitter user Mona Kareem has also been posting links to photos and videos.

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…]

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3 thoughts on “Crackdown on migrants: Saudi Arabia’s self-inflicted crisis

  1. Abdulrahman Al-Zuhayyan

    Ethiopians in Saudi Arabia

    The heinous crimes committed by Ethiopian migrants in Saudi Arabia are widespread. They violate every law in the book. Yet, when security forces apprehend them, they scream and shout, claiming that they are innocent, as if the authority is only out to get these people. This is a mind-boggling predicament that defies human sensibility.

    It is well known all over the world that Saudi people and government alike view foreigners from Third World countries (Islamic and others), as equal human beings and should be treated according to Islamic egalitarian principles, so all are on equal footing legally and socially.

    This explains why Saudi Arabia is the most attractive place on earth for migrant workers. They know that they can live peacefully and raise their children in a safe environment where their rights are protected, as if they were living in their own home country.

    In the spirit of tolerance and goodwill, most Saudis condone the law violations and breaches of local customs and traditions by most foreigners, including Ethiopian Africans, in the hope that they may have a change of thought and heart, as they adapt to civil human Saudi society. But that only emboldened them farther, acceding phathomable and acceptable behaviors, principally these violent Ethiopians.

    This behavioral disposition is not only exclusive to African Ethiopians, but also other foreigners, even some Muslims — whatever their nationality might be. They perceive Saudis as non-Muslims as same as Kafer (infidel), because of their strong ties with the West. So, their physical being, property, women and children are fair play, and they can do whatever they are pleased to do with them. Naturally, Ethiopians will not be inclined to hold different views with respect to Saudis.

    Moreover, the aforementioned Saudi Islamic and tribal egalitarian principles are not enshrined in most of the Third World’s cultures, which are by and large are based on social hierarchy, like the social cast system and the economic agrarian feudal system.

    People belonging to this backward world are strongly convinced that they do not deserve this equal treatment accorded to them by Saudis. As a result, they look down upon Saudis and view them as dumb and stupid for awarding them something that they are not worthy of having, and hence it is perfectly all right to murder them, rob them, and sexually abuse their women and children.

    That view is particularly evident in the behavior of Ethiopians, who suffers racial discrimination in most societies, except Saudi Arabia. The reason for welcoming and embracing Ethiopians in Saudi Arabia is due to religious historical events.

    Specifically because their country more than 1435 years ago had welcomed the companions of Prophet Mohammad, and Saudis still hold for them this positive gesture to date. Unlike Ethiopians who are welcomed by Saudis, early Muslims were respecting of the local laws, as well as local norms and traditions, and of course, they were civil and respectful.

    At last, when the government decided to crackdown on Ethiopians’ illegal activities and protects the society from their fatal crimes, they all of a sudden had a severe attack of amnesia and loss of sensibility.

    Paradoxically, Saudis have become law violators, criminal murderers, thieves, rapist, child molesters, and even animals !!!!

    Indeed, this is an evil twisted logic, which gives good reason for correcting their illegal status by immediate deportation. A move that should protect Saudi civil society from the violence of theses Ethiopians.

  2. Paul Woodward

    Abdulrahman Al-Zuhayyan — You write: “It is well known all over the world that Saudi people and government alike view foreigners from Third World countries (Islamic and others), as equal human beings and should be treated according to Islamic egalitarian principles, so all are on equal footing legally and socially.”

    If I was to give you the benefit of the doubt, I might attribute your opinion to naivety, but since you are a newspaper columnist and academic, I don’t think you can plead ignorance.

    In fact, Saudi Arabia (like many other countries in the Middle East) is well known all over the world for its numerous documented cases of abuse of foreign workers:

    Man beating in Saudi Arabia raises questions over expat rights in kingdom (Reuters, November 2, 2013)

    The incident captured in this video is said to have “shocked” Saudi Arabia, yet I suspect “embarrassed” might be more accurate, since this case appears far from exceptional.

    Saudi Arabia under fire at U.N. over women’s, migrant workers rights (Reuters, October 21, 2013)

    Low pay: new form of abuse for foreign workers in Saudi Arabia (Dhaka Tribune, June 22, 2013)

    Saudi Arabian official filmed beating foreign workers with a belt as they visit passport office to get their visas (Daily Mail, May 29, 2013)

    Nightmare in Saudi Arabia: The Plight of Foreign Migrant Workers (Daily Beast, January 14, 2013)

    Saudi Arabia’s treatment of foreign workers under fire after beheading of Sri Lankan maid (The Observer, January 12, 2013)

    “As If I Am Not Human” — Abuses against Asian Domestic Workers in Saudi Arabia (Human Rights Watch, July 8, 2008)

    Exported and Exposed — Abuses against Sri Lankan Domestic Workers in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Lebanon, and the United Arab Emirates (Human Rights Watch, November 14, 2007)

    Bad Dreams: Exploitation and Abuse of Migrant Workers in Saudi Arabia (Human Rights Watch, July 14, 2004)

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