Saturday, April 6, 2013

Raids in Saudi Arabia

A true test of social media took place this past week across Saudi Arabia. Many people heard stories of how foreigners were being deported due to illegally working or working for someone other than their original sponsor. It is true that many foreigners (also called expatriates) are working, although their visa says “not permitted to work.” However, companies and businesses in Saudi Arabia still recruit such “local hires.” It is simply cheaper because it prevents the company from having to provide visa’s and airline tickets, as well as accommodations for such employees. Some of the workers may be housewives, or may have formerly worked for another employer and found work elsewhere for better pay.
One reason for these recent raids is to ensure that Saudi citizens have jobs. According to   the unemployment rate is more than 12.1% among Saudi’s. Saudization is a drive that has been occurring for the past few years, which has made it a law to employ Saudi citizens. These recent raids on schools, hospitals, shops and even cell phone companies is one way to ensure that businesses are following the rules.

Widespread panic and/or discussion via Facebook and twitter took place. Some people wondered if the panic was caused by rumors. They wondered if it was just a way for certain facebook groups to bring more traffic to their pages. I can tell you first hand, that these raids did take place and panic occurred. I interviewed several people who spoke of their experiences (all from Jeddah).

1.      Yousef explained how he received daily texts from his child’s school, saying that the school was closed due to electrical problems. Another parent with a child at another school received similar texts from his child’s school.

2.      Rania, a college instructor in Jeddah was told that classes were cancelled and not to come to work until further notified.

3.      Apartment “gaurds” also called “haris” were rounded up in Mohammed’s neighborhood. They were not paid and were taken to jail.

4.      Danya’s daughter went to school only to have her class combined with several others, because many of the teachers were afraid to come to work, due to fear of being taken and deported.

5.      As Zahid arrived to work, he was told to go home and work from home until further notice.

6.      Government employees were checking iqama’s at Saad’s workplace (cell phone business). This went on for hours, he said, until finally, they instructed the company to check their own worker’s iqama’s for legality.

7.      Janet noticed that the local bookstore has less employee’s working, compared to a normal Wednesday evening.
All interviewee’s named above, have now returned back to work. Things have since calmed down and many people’s fears are gone. However, many have not. Some are now more insecure about staying in Saudi Arabia. They feel unwanted. They feel that they have worked very hard to improve their company. According to a recent article in the Arab News, companies now have 2 months to get their papers and employees in order. The article can be found here: Many countries go through this process of cleansing the country of illegal workers. It is also a reality that employers are not abiding by the laws of their country (they are hiring these workers!) It is no doubt that change is occurring in the kingdom. It is my hope that foreigners will be protected and feel safe once again.

*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of those interviewed.


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