First Hajj, now work: Saudi Arabia suspends labour visas to Ebola-hit countries
The Kingdom on Monday stopped granting visas to workers from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the countries worst-hit by the deadly Ebola virus.
The “preventive measure” is based on “directives from the foreign and health ministries to avoid” the spread of Ebola to the Kingdom, the official news agency SPA reported.
The virus, for which there is no treatment or vaccine, has claimed 1,552 lives out of 3,069 reported cases — 694 in Liberia, 430 in Guinea, 422 in Sierra Leon and six in Nigeria, according to latestfigures from the World Health Organization.
Saudi Arabia made a similar decision in April when it announced the suspension of visas for Haj pilgrims from Guinea and Liberia.
The Haj pilgrimage, the world’s biggest Muslim gathering, draws two million people to Saudi Arabia each year, including many from the West African countries affected by the Ebola outbreak. This year it falls in October.
The “temporary suspension” of labor visas from the three African nations “will not affect the labor market in Saudi Arabia” where the number of workers from these countries “is very little,” SPA quoted deputy Labor Minister Mufrej Al-Haqbani as saying.
He said laboratory tests before arrival were “strictly required” by the Labor Ministry for all foreigners coming from West Africa.
Apart from Nigeria, Ebola has also spread to Senegal.
Until the middle of this year, the number of people working in the Kingdom from these countries reached 527, including152 domestic help, while the number of visas issued during the same period reached 120, of which 88 for domestic workers.
Al-Haqbani said there is no move to curb recruitment from Nigeria where some cases of Ebola have been reported. “All the victims of Ebola registered in Nigeria were those who came from Liberia,” he said.