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Foreign Workers Want To Go Home After Two Killed In Overnight Riyadh Rioting

posted 10 Nov 2013, 14:25 by Mpelembe   [ updated 11 Nov 2013, 11:57 ]

Thousands of mostly African workers seek repatriation after two people are killed in overnight rioting due to a visa crackdown.

RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA (NOVEMBER 9, 2013)(SOCIAL MEDIA) -  Two people died in overnight clashes in Riyadh on Saturday (November 9) between police and foreign workers rioting against a visa crackdown.

Police arrested hundreds of protesters who were rioting in the poor neighbourhood of Manfouha.

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Saudi authorities said 68 people were wounded, including 20 Saudis. More than 500 were detained and over 100 cars torched.

Saudi authorities said earlier this year they would no longer tolerate visa irregularities which have led to a large black market in cheap foreign labour in the world's top oil exporter.

Government raids on businesses, markets and homes began last week after a seven-month amnesty for foreigners to correct their visas or leave without paying penalties for overstaying or breaking other rules, ended on Nov. 4.

On Sunday (November 10) thousands of mostly African workers sought repatriation after the overnight deaths.

One of those killed was a Saudi, said a government statement, and the other was not identified. An Ethiopian man was killed in a visa raid last week.

Ethiopia's foreign minister condemned the deaths, and told Reuters his government was working to bring its citizens home.

He said Addis Ababa had formally complained to Riyadh and that embassy staff were working to help Ethiopians return home.

In Manfouha, a long line of buses slowly filled up, as Africans carrying bags arrived from neighbouring streets, alone or in groups.

Groups of people in Arab and south Asian dress stood on rooftops to watch. While the scene unfolded peacefully, many police stood nearby and several ambulances were also present.

"No iqama (residence permit)," said one man who said he was seeking repatriation to Ethiopia. He said he had arrived in Saudi Arabia illegally a year ago after paying smugglers 5,000 Saudi riyals (1,333 US dollars) to make the dangerous trip over the Strait of Hormuz and overland throughYemen.

"Saudis don't want foreigners. They want us to leave. They don't want any foreigners," said another departing foreign worker, Abdul Kareem.

Saudi authorities hope to open up private sector jobs to their own citizens by sending illegal workers home. Hundreds of thousands have left in recent months, but several million have corrected their visas and will remain in Saudi Arabia.

Many say they could not take advantage of the amnesty due to bureaucratic problems or disputes with their original employers.

On Saturday the Labour Ministry announced it would continue to allow foreign workers to rectify their visas, but only if they paid fines for previous breaches of regulations.

More than nine million of Saudi Arabia's 28 million inhabitants are foreigners.