More efforts needed to avoid another Manfouha

More efforts needed to avoid another Manfouha

When the decision to clamp down on illegal workers in Kingdom was taken, the authorities were fully aware of the magnitude of the problem. They knew very well that there are thousands of expatriates who had either been smuggled into the country, overstayed their Haj or Umrah visas or failed to renew their Iqamas for various reasons. Keeping in view the situation the relevant departments braced for the action and increased their workforce and capabilities to cope with any kind of situation. By the way, this also included construction of decent facilities to house the illegals once they get caught or surrender.
However, the Kingdom had given ample time to the illegals to rectify their status. Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah granted a seven-month grace period to these expatriates. At the end of this amnesty, the government machinery swung into action and started carrying out raids on various establishments.
The whole exercise is being carried out without any discrimination against any specific ethnic group. Whatever happened in the Manfouha district in Riyadh has shocked both the Saudis and expatriates.
It is just like any other area in Riyadh. However, majority of the residents in this area are Ethiopians. As part of the ongoing action, when the inspection teams visited the area, it emerged that it was a hub of hundreds of illegal Ethiopians. Instead of complying with the law, they created unrest that resulted in the death of a Saudi and an Ethiopian.
The course taken by Ethiopians was provocative and could have earned the ire of the local population. But no Saudi retaliated.
Commenting on the riots in Manfouha, an expatriate said: “The best part about these riots is that there was no backlash from the Saudis. This shows how much the Saudis respect and follow Islamic values. Nowhere in the world an expat gets away by doing such things. Even the US is prone to racial/revenge attacks on foreigners. The Saudis truly are God-fearing people. Hats off and stay blessed.”
Subsequent events show that the Ethiopians are in a state of denial. They have infiltrated into the country and reportedly committed various crimes. Despite all that the Saudi government and Saudis forgot those crimes and provided them with an opportunity to leave the country without facing the music.
Unfortunately, the Ethiopians paid back the Saudis by creating unrest and leveling allegations against the host country. They accused Saudis of raping Ethiopian maids, brutality against workers and of non-payment of dues. Raping or manhandling anyone is an unacceptable behavior in Saudi and non-Saudi households. Saudis treat their domestic workers as family members. Saudis have been accused of the unthinkable. People leveling such baseless allegations are devoid of moral values. Moreover, this view is inconsistent with the history and religion of this country. The claim that Saudis do not pay their workers on time has become a cliché since the 1980s when Iraq-Iran war broke out due to which the Saudi economy was affected. Yet, it remains a frequent rant, despite the current economic prosperity.
As Saudis, we know that hardly any worker would waive the least amount of his/her monetary entitlement due to the convenient accessibility to plea before the administrative governor of the region or to lodge a complaint at any police station, which are instructed to respond quickly to such cases. Likewise, rape and physical abuse are serious criminal acts with social and legal implications. One would be deterred from engaging in these acts because of the social stigma attached to such behaviors.
Most probably, for these reasons, some maids and workers may have leveled such allegations as a threat to sort out differences with their employers. It is not to say that such incidents can never occur. But nobody has the right to generalize on the basis of isolated incidents.
Diplomatic missions have a key role to play in this regard particularly in the backdrop of the Ethiopian drama. The missions should work in tandem with the Saudi authorities to resolve such issues.

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