Despite Saudi crackdown, expat workers return to the streets
Jeddah’s streets and markets are bustling again with expatriate workers after government announced its three-month grace period for illegal workers to sort out their work and residence papers.
The government’s raids saw many expatriates staying in their homes, including street vendors, car cleaners and other workers. A report last week estimated that almost 40 percent of the city’s taxis disappeared from the roads. A number of international schools also closed down as teachers stayed home. Almost 7,000 Filipino workers sought help from their consulate because of the raids.
Jabbar Malik, a street loader at Balad wholesale market, said he suffered over the period. “Life was hard for us laborers over those few days because many shops were closed. We couldn’t find any customers and at the same time we were also afraid of being caught by the police.”
Street vendor Abdul Aziz (not his real name), who sells toys on the street, said he did not make any money during the period which meant he could not buy food and other necessities.
Another vendor, Mohammed Iqbal, said he was also badly affected because he could not get extra income from selling water on the streets. He also works at a local shop. “I sell water on the streets to earn some extra money to feed mouths back home. My salary is not enough for me to live properly, so how can I send money back home to my family? I respect the grace period offered by the King but I don’t know what to do,” he said.
A citizen, Hafizur Rahman, said many expatriates are working for Saudis and looking after their businesses as technicians, laborers, plumbers and street vendors. “During the raids it was difficult to find a plumber or electrician, but now with the grace period everything is back to normal. But is this enough time for expats to transfer their iqamas?” he asked.
Dr. Padma Hariharan, director and head of Novel International Group of Schools, praised the Saudi government for trying to build a modern, well-regulated labor market. She called on expatriates to work with the government.
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