110,000 expelled in Saudi foreign labor crackdown

110,000 expelled in Saudi foreign labor crackdown
Mon Dec 2, 2013 20:11:45

Saudi Arabian authorities said Monday they had expelled more than 110,000 migrants since the November 4 launch of a campaign against foreign workers.

"The number of offenders expelled from the beginning of the campaign on November 4 up to 8 pm (0600 GMT) on Sunday has reached 110,243," said the General Passports Administration.

The nationwide crackdown started last month after the end of a seven-month amnesty for foreign migrants whose work permits had expired or who were not working for their official sponsors.

The government says its actions are aimed at providing jobs for Saudis. The unemployment rate stands at 12 percent.

Foreigners made up more than 9 million of Saudi Arabia's population of 29 million, the last census in 2010 showed.

Culture and Information Minister Abdel-Aziz Khawja said the crackdown would continue, despite criticism from human rights groups.

The kingdom had "given an opportunity to offenders to rectify their status," Khawja said after a weekly cabinet meeting.

Human Rights Watch said Sunday that Ethiopian immigrants in the oil-rich kingdom were victims of violent assaults, while detained workers were being held without adequate food and shelter.

"Saudi authorities have spent months branding foreign workers as criminals in the media, and stirring up anti-migrant sentiment to justify the labor crackdown," said Joe Stork, the Middle East director of the New York-based group.

"The Saudi government needs to rein in Saudi citizens who are attacking foreign workers," he continued.

The kingdom, the world's top oil exporter, has come under fire over its restrictions on foreign workers, who are tied to one employer under a sponsorship system. Rights groups say this makes them vulnerable to exploitation.

NJF/NJF

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