Monday, November 11, 2013

No Arab Spring for Migrants

At least two people have been killed and scores wounded as Saudi police clashed with protesting foreign workers in a district of the capital, Riyadh. Vigilante Saudi residents in Manfuhah reportedly joined the fighting and even detained some Ethiopians. Ethiopian Foreign Affairs Minister Tedros Adhanom said he had information that three Ethiopian citizens had been killed, one last Tuesday and two in the latest clashes. Last week police rounded up thousands of migrant workers after an amnesty linked to new employment rules expired.

An estimated nine million migrant workers are in Saudi Arabia - more than half the workforce - filling manual, clerical, and service jobs. Nearly a million Bangladeshis, Indians, Filipinos, Nepalis, Pakistanis and Yemenis are estimated to have left the country in the past three months. More than 30,000 Yemenis have reportedly crossed to their home country in the past 10 days alone. Four million other migrants obtained work permits before last Sunday's deadline.

Human Rights Watch has denounced the country's labour system as "abusive". "The kafala, or sponsorship system ties migrant workers' residency permits to sponsoring employers, whose written consent is required for workers to change employers or leave the country," it has said.

1 comment:

ajohnstone said...

A top UN official has criticized Qatar over the condition of migrant workers in the Persian Gulf emirate and reports of workers' deaths on construction sites.

Francois Crepeau, the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants that living conditions of foreign workers in Qatar are poor and described one compound he had visited as a "slum".

Foreign workers cannot change jobs or leave the emirate without the permission of their sponsors, who are often Qatari companies or individuals who provide workers to businesses for profit.

Most of the sponsors take away the passports of the workers, who are mostly in the construction sector, for the duration of their contract.

"This system that is used to regulate the relationship between employers and migrant workers, with a work permit linked to a single employer, is problematic and a source of abuse against migrants," Crepeau added.

Hundreds of migrant workers have already died and many more injured on building sites in the country.