Saudi Arabia deports tens of thousands of foreign workers

Nov. 30, 2013 at 2:46 PM
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RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, Nov. 30 (UPI) -- A crackdown on foreign labor in Saudi Arabia has resulted in the deportation of tens of thousands of economic migrants, mostly Ethiopians, officials say.

The crackdown began in March after years of complaints by Saudis that foreign labor skewed the country's economy and made it difficult for young Saudis to get into the labor work force, The Guardian reported.

One million Bangladeshis, Indians, Filipinos, Nepalis, Pakistanis and Yemenis have left Saudi Arabia since March, and 2 million immigrants are expected to leave Saudi Arabia by 2014.

Ethiopia said this week 50,000 of its nationals had been deported to Addis Ababa since March, with the total expected to rise to 80,000.

Experts say the "Saudisation" program, which establishes quotas for employing Saudis in certain sectors, may be hard to implement, because most of the jobs that would be filled by foreign workers are menial work that Saudis refuse to do.

"Saudisation can only succeed if a company really wants to do it," argued Abdelrahman al-Mutlak, a businessman. "It can't be done by regulation. Too many Saudis still think it's a lot more prestigious to hire a foreigner even if there is perfectly good Saudi candidate available."

Economists say with fewer foreign workers sending remittances home, more money will stay in the country and boost consumer spending.

"It is the right thing to do," said Fawziya al-Bakr, a lecturer. "We've reached the point where people were trading in these workers and women were running away to become prostitutes. This is a problem that has built up over 40 years. It can't just be swept up in nine months. But it has to be done. When everything is legalized it will be easier to control."

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