Saudis have renewed support for the ongoing labor raids against illegals following the rampage in Riyadh by undocumented Ethiopians on Saturday.
The rioting, which left at least two dead and dozens injured, raised two pertinent questions for Saudis: How did illegals get in here and how did they manage to gain employment?
Late Saturday, hundreds of Ethiopians, including at least 70 women, armed themselves with knives, rocks and broken bottles and threatened police, pedestrians and motorists in Manfouha district’s narrow streets.
Anti-riot police fired in the air and used truncheons to break up the crowd.
In the ensuing clashes, two men were killed — a Saudi and an Ethiopian. The Saudi victim, 32, was struck on the head with a rock.
More than 70 people, including 28 Saudis, were injured and 104 vehicles were damaged.
Several shops were ransacked. Police arrested 561 people. The district’s schools remained shut on Sunday, according to eyewitnesses.
Riyadh police chief Brig. Gen. Naser Al-Qahtani said police had cordoned off central Riyadh to control the crowd and arrest troublemakers.
Medical personnel reported that victims suffered concussions, bruises and knife wounds.
On Sunday, police established an asylum center at the intersection of King Abdul Aziz Road, south of Riyadh Ring Road, where hundreds of undocumented Ethiopians surrendered in response to police calls.
Reacting to the riots, Jamal Khashoggi, Alarab TV chief, said that whoever opposed labor action to rid the country of illegal workers and regulate the market should now think of the worst-case scenario. “No country would ever accept illegal workers,” he said.
Hamad Al-Qadi, a former Shoura Council member, said: “We shouldn’t be deterred by rioting. We should continue with the campaign against illegal workers for the interest and security of our nation. This forms part of our fundamental right to protect our sovereignty … Nobody can argue against that.”
Rashid Al-Fowzan, chairman of CNBC-Arabia TV channel in Riyadh, said that what happened in Manfouha could happen in any other place in the country.
“Have we realized the magnitude of the disaster of illegal workers who have resisted arrest and have even resorted to killing?” he asked.
Columnist Ali Al-Kheshaiban said that labor raids must continue for the security of the nation, warning that any retreat from such a policy at this point would have a negative impact on security.
Dr. Ahmad Al-Turki of Adama Hospital said that the riots only confirm the need for a strict crackdown on illegals and to renew support for the government departments handling it.
Ghazi Al-Shammari, head of the Family Cooperation Committee at the Eastern Province Governorate, has warned Saudi families who employ Ethiopian maids against acts of vengeance, especially when they have easy access to news through their cell phones.
“The security of our nation is a red line that can’t be crossed,” he said, calling for full cooperation with security departments and warning against coverup businesses at all costs.
Many Saudi bloggers have asked for the eradication of visa trading and coverup operations. “This is an old problem that has worsened over the years,” said Yousef Al-Mubarak, who called for a final solution. “Now is the time to keep up the momentum.”