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Saudi Arabia illegal worker crackdown leaves ‘shops closed, streets empty’

Source : Saudi Gazette | 06 Nov 2013

Residents and citizens woke up in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday to a day crippled by a lack of necessary services as illegal expat workers, who failed to rectify their status, stayed indoors for fear of being arrested.

Streets were less crowded and taxi drivers charged exorbitant fares, markets were near-deserted, many commercial establishments and hospitals reported no-shows, shutters were down on many grocery stores and eateries, street vendors largely absent.

A Saudi national in Jeddah summed up the scenario: “It seems that the country was full of violators. Shops are closed, streets are empty, restaurants are empty. I counted 30 cell phone shops on one street closed. God help us! Where are the citizens?”

In Jazan, a number of Saudis said that they had to go to their workplaces, wearing un-ironed thobe and headgear (shemagh) as most of the laundries remained closed. “There was no way for me to wear a washed and ironed thobe and shemagh as I saw doors of the laundry where I deposited my clothes closed without any notice,” said Muhammad Qassem.

Even the dead were affected,

About 13 facilities for washing dead bodies were shut down in Jeddah due to the absence of workers.

Muhammad Fauzy Maulavi, director of the charity project for washing dead bodies, said that those who wash dead bodies are either drivers or have some administrative jobs listed as their profession. As a result of the closure of the facilities, many people started taking dead bodies to Makkah for washing.

About 60 percent of commercial shops, workshops, fruit and vegetable stalls in Jazan and other cities and towns in the region were closed. There have been increased business activities at the eateries in the region due to the closure of more than 40 percent of restaurants. “I had to wait more than four hours in front of a restaurant to get lunch from a restaurant where I saw unprecedented rush of customers,” said Abdurahman Nasheeli.

Jabir Kharmi, another citizen, said that he was forced to eat lunch from a fast-food outlet due to the closure of a traditional restaurant where he frequented to have his meal.

Meanwhile, crackdown on illegal expatriates continued throughout the kingdom on the second day on Tuesday following the end of the amnesty period. More than 5,000 illegals were arrested on the first day. They included 3,607 in Jazan, about 2,000 in Jeddah and 1,159 in Asir region.

Lt. Col. Abdullah Al-Shaathan, spokesman of Asir police, said that the arrested expatriates included 461 people without a valid residency permit (iqama), and another 119 who were found working in violation of the labor law. Three Saudis were also arrested for providing transportation to illegals..

Several illegals from Asian and Arab countries gathered at their consulates in Jeddah on the first two days of the post-amnesty period, seeking completion of the procedures to rectify their labor and residency status. They complained that even though they had registered their names at their missions, the procedures for correction or securing a final exit stamp have not been finalized at the Passports Department.

Some consulates urged the department to expedite the paperwork. Ali al-Ayashi, Consul General of Yemen, demanded the department to complete the correction procedures of thousands of Yemenis whose names were registered at the consulate well before the end of the amnesty period.

The Border Guards in Jazan arrested more than 8,000 foreigners belonging to various nationalities who tried to leave the kingdom illegally within the first 24 hours of the post-amnesty period.

Brig. Gen. Abdullah Mahfouz, spokesman of the Guards in Jazan region, said that more than 3,000 of them were deported after getting finger-printed while the remaining illegals are under the process of finger-printing. “It was revealed that a number of these illegals are in the wanted list of security authorities for various crimes and hence, they will be transferred to the concerned authorities for follow up penal action,” he said.