Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Migrant Worker Protest At UK Saudi Embassy

The protest outside the Saudi Embassy.
Ethiopians living in the UK vent their outrage over five deaths and reported brutality against migrants in Saudi's visa crackdown.
By Richard Williams, Sky News Online
More than one thousand people angry over the treatment of migrant workers in Saudi Arabia have staged a protest outside the country's London embassy.

The demonstration comes amid a crackdown on illegal workers in Saudi, which has seen five people killed amid allegations of brutality by authorities.

Officials in the country say the move is designed to reduce the 12% unemployment rate among native Saudis.

But those protesting say the nine million - mostly African - migrant workers in the country perform menial jobs that Saudis are unwilling to do.

More than 20,000 Ethiopians have surrendered to authorities since the crackdown, which has also seen a number of clashes with police in capital Riyadh.

Abel Kemal, 26, an Ethiopian currently studying for a masters degree, was among the protesters outside the embassy in central London on Monday.
He told Sky News that the kafala system used in Saudi - which means all migrants must be 'sponsored' by their employer, who is responsible for their visa and legal status - deprives foreign workers of basic human rights.

"Most of the Ethiopians who go to Saudi are from the poorest areas of Ethiopia," he said.

"They go there in the hope of a better life, to support their families back home and will normally be doing the most menial of jobs, which Saudis simply don't want to do.

"The kafala system means migrant workers really have no rights and no power, and many, many people have suffered injustices over the years.

"They are already treated like slaves in many ways, but it is the magnitude of the brutality since the crackdown this month that has caused the anger now."

He called on the British Government to exert pressure on the Saudi authorities.

"I am angry, as anyone would be, that my brothers and sisters living in Saudi are being beaten, raped and even killed," he said.

"The British Government is in a position to put pressure on Saudi to stop this, but then who is going to sell them oil? Saudi Arabia has a lot of power."

A statement issued to Sky News by the Saudi Embassy said protests by Ethiopian illegal immigrants in Saudi Arabia had resulted in the death "of a number of Saudi private citizens, other immigrants as well as members of the security and police forces".

It said all immigrants in Saudi  Arabia without proper documentation were given eight months to put forward their case for staying in the Kingdom legally.

"Illegal immigrants have been advised that following deportation they are welcome to reapply to enter the Kingdom legally in accordance with Saudi Arabia's laws and regulations," the statement added.