Raids’ ferocity alarms holed-up illegal expats

Raids’ ferocity alarms holed-up illegal expats
Updated 10 November 2013

Raids’ ferocity alarms holed-up illegal expats

Raids’ ferocity alarms holed-up illegal expats

Thousands of expatriates who refused to correct their status during the grace period are now having sleepless nights.
They have stayed away from work since Nov. 3 in the belief that the raids would end soon and it would be business as usual.
“I'm scared to death after seeing all those photos of handcuffed expats in newspapers and on social media sites,” said Nasir Lateef, a Pakistani in Riyadh. “We never expected the raids to be so ferocious.”
Lateef says he is not undocumented. “I have a valid iqama (residency permit), but I can be arrested during a raid because the profession on my iqama says I'm an accountant, while I'm actually an auto repairman.”
There are hundreds of workers like Lateef in Jeddah, Dammam and other cities who thought the raids would simply not take place, or that they would end in a week.
“The ferocity of the raids has alarmed us,” said Nayyar Siddiki, an Indian teacher. “Nobody wants to take the risk of venturing out,” he said from his home in the expat-dominated Aziziyah district.
Siddiki admits that it was wrong not to transfer his sponsorship to the school where he teaches. “I'm not alone, many of my colleagues thought that since they have iqamas they would not be arrested,” he said. “Now we are confused and rue the decision not to undergo the correction process.”
Those staying home are relying on what is termed in expat circles as “raid fatigue” on the part of the government.
“We are hoping that the inspectors and the security forces will call off the raids after one more week,” said Anisul Islam, a Bangladeshi gas station attendant in Dammam.
The government, however, has made it clear that there would be no letup in the raids. “This is a comprehensive and long-term Kingdomwide campaign,” said Brig. Mansour Al-Turki, the Interior Ministry spokesman, on Nov. 3 when the amnesty period ended.
The Labor Ministry has devised a comprehensive raid mechanism. In the first phase, officials raided areas with many expatriates including vegetable markets, industrial areas, auto-repair and paint shops. They arrested thousands of illegal workers. Inspectors have not yet raided commercial establishments and international schools.
There is near unanimity among Saudis that the government is doing the right thing.
“It's now or never,” said Saeed Al-Shamrani, a teacher at a government school in Jeddah. “No country can accept undocumented and illegal workers on such a massive scale,” he said. “The numbers arrested indicate the magnitude of the problem.”
His colleague, Yahya Al-Dossary, agrees. “We are ready to suffer in the short term for a long-term solution. The government is doing the right thing. We need expats, but we need legal ones.”