Saudi Arabia: Labour force drive to replace foreign workers with nationals should not come at the expense of Yemeni workers

Saudi Arabia: Labour force drive to replace foreign workers with nationals should not come at the expense of Yemeni workers

LONDON  - It is alarming that the Saudi authorities continue implementing a policy aimed at forcibly reducing the number of Yemeni workers to the minimum, says ImpACT International for Human Rights Policies. The Government’s latest act was to dismiss hundreds of workers in teaching and medical care in southern Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi authorities have been implementing this policy for months – with increased pace in the past month, said the London-based think tank.  The Government aims at terminating the contracts of hundreds of Yemeni academics, teachers and doctors in Saudi universities, schools and hospitals, and forcing them to return to Yemen, which in turn is facing the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.

Many of my colleagues were informed that they need to find another job in three months, or the must leave the Kingdom immediately. This is impossible.

- Yemeni teacher under the threat of expulsion from Saudi Arabia

In addition to hundreds of workers whose contracts have already been terminated, thousands of others are facing an indeterminate future knowing that they may be included in the Saudi campaign.

Saudi Arabia has been working for years to address the high unemployment rates among Saudi citizens by implementing a policy of "Saudization" to replace expatriate workers Saudi nationals.

"I have not received a notice of termination, but many of my colleagues have and were informed that they need to find another job in three months, or the must leave the Kingdom immediately,” said a Yemeni teacher who is under the threat of expulsion from Saudi Arabia said to ImpACT, but wished to remain anonymous.

"This is impossible. If there is a decision to lay off Yemeni workers, how can those laid-off get other job opportunities? Today I was not laid off, but who knows what could happen tomorrow!", he added.

ImpACT reviewed a (confidential) notice in which the Saudi authorities informed business owners of its decision, "in terms of nationalization policies, professional exposure policies, and nationalities' balance policy" The Saudi authorities informed business owners of the necessity of “transferring all workers of the specified nationality to any other branch outside the Al-Asr, Al-Wahda, Najran, Jazan regions.”

The authorities demanded businesses owners “not to accommodate the workers of the defined nationality or to renew their housing contracts in the southern regions after their deadline expiry, and to bear full responsibility for this, and to apply the legal penalties against him.”

"The Saudi authorities have the right to find solutions to address unemployment and to employ Saudi citizens, but this should not be at the expense of more than one and a half million Yemeni workers, most of whom receive low salaries," said Sarah Burashid, a researcher at ImpACT International.

"Most Yemeni workers in the southern areas were left with no choice but to leave, especially in the regions of Jazan, Aseer, Najran and Al Bahah, where, since last July, they received notices of their contracts' termination," stated Burashid. "This included the termination of their housing leases and threat of deportation if they did not get jobs in other areas."

Burashid stressed that the procedures for terminating workers' contracts in various institutions must be carried out in accordance with rules and regulations that safeguard their rights.

Local media reported that the Saudi authorities had sent ultimatums to businesses in the southern governorates, informing them that they have to take steps to terminate Yemeni labor contracts in preparation for their deportation.

In 2017, the Saudi Ministry of Finance announced the start of imposing additional fees on migrant workers and their companions, amounting to SAR 400 per month per person at the beginning of 2020, which prompted many migrant workers to leave Saudi Arabia, either to other countries or to return to their homelands because they are unable to cover the costs of accommodation.

While tens of thousands of families in Yemen depend on their children working in Saudi Arabia sending remittances to help improve their deteriorating living conditions, the return of hundreds of them threaten to exacerbate the humanitarian crisis that Yemenis facing.

Yemeni displacement and migration began to accelerate in 2015, since the launch of the Saudi-led Operation Decisive Storm. More than 233,000 people died until the end of 2019 as a result of the fighting, according to the United Nations.

ImpACT International for Human Rights Policies called on the Saudi authorities to safeguard the rights of expatriate workers, whilst respecting the authorities right to address unemployment amongst Saudis.

ImpACT also called on the Saudi Ministry of Labor and Social Development to take the necessary measures to guarantee the labor rights of the tens of thousands of migrant workers in the country, and to enforce contract termination procedures that are in accordance with standards and regulations safeguarding their rights.


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