JEDDAH: Irfan Mohammed
Published — Tuesday 5 November 2013
Last update 8 November 2013 3:58 am
Indonesian expatriates who had failed to regularize their status during the extended amnesty period staged a sit-in on one of Jeddah's busiest streets on Monday demanding repatriation.
The crowds, which consisted mainly of women, began gathering at the intersection between Prince Majed and Palestine Street opposite Al-Baik at 11 p.m. Sunday. By Monday morning, their numbers had swelled to thousands as Indonesians began arriving from all over the Kingdom.
“We have tried for several weeks to regularize our status, but officials are insisting on original passports and other documents, which we don’t have,” one worker who did not want to give his name told Arab News.
Many said it wasn’t easy to leave the Kingdom and that they had been waiting for days together at the deportation center but could not go home.
Thousands of men, women and children are spending sleepless nights under the overpass.
Indonesian officials, security forces, traffic police and Passport Department teams later arrived at the scene and police blocked a stretch of Palestine Road from the traffic signal to the fuel station at the corner of Sahafa Street.
The crowds readily complied with the request to keep the road clear for the passage of police vehicles. However, they refused to go to the new deportation center at Shumaisy near Makkah to complete procedures for repatriation.
As news spread about police arranging buses to transport the illegal workers, many more Indonesians swiftly joined the crowds in a bid to leave the Kingdom.
Sources said that women with children, pregnant women and the sick are being given priority for repatriation.
Dozens of buses operated by Jeddah police arrived after 11:30 a.m. to take the workers and their families to the new deportation center to complete procedures.
“Jeddah police is coordinating with the Indonesian Consulate to assist in the repatriation process,” Nawaf Al-Bouq of Jeddah police told Arab News, adding that they had hired buses to shift them to the deportation center for fingerprinting and other procedures. A Jeddah police officer said that the problem had occurred due to the delay in processing paperwork by the Indonesian Consulate.
“These Indonesians intend to return home and we are assisting them,” said Ahmed Sayif of the Indonesian Consulate, who has under the overpass all day. He told Arab News that the “Indonesian Consulate is issuing travel documents instantly to those who don’t have documents in their possession and are sending them to the Shumaisy deportation center to complete procedures for repatriation.”
According to Indonesian sources, an estimated 73,655 Indonesians remain in the Kingdom without documents.
While it was chaotic under the overpass on Palestine Street, the scene at the Indonesian Consulate was relatively calm. However, security was beefed up at the consulate as a precautionary measure.