Monday, September 18

Al Saud plans largest mass deportation in modern history

Mohammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, appointed Saudi Arabia's heir apparent to the throne (Crown Prince) in June 2017

August 1, 2016
TEHRAN (FNA)- New Delhi started to sending food for more than 10,000 Indian laborers stranded in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait with no wages after losing their jobs, in what Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj called a "food crisis".

In a series of tweets, Swaraj said the migrant workers were facing "extreme hardship" and that two junior foreign ministers will be sent to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to take up the issue with authorities, Middle East Eye reported.

"Large numbers of Indians have lost their jobs in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. The employers have not paid wages and closed down their factories," Swaraj said.

"As a result our brothers and sisters in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are facing extreme hardship. While the situation in Kuwait is manageable, matters are much worse in Saudi Arabia. "The number of Indian workers facing food crisis in Saudi Arabia is over ten thousand." ...

August 29, 2017 
John Batchelor's interview with Gregory Copley, Editor and Publisher, Defense & Foreign Affairs for the John Batchelor Show (below is my transcription of the interview; above link is for the podcast):   

JB: ... The imminent dislocation of millions of workers now in Saudi Arabia without nationality. The plan is overwhelming and will dislocate the whole of the region, not just the Gulf but into Africa and eventually into Asia Minor.  

Gregory, you say that there is a plan imminent in Saudi Arabia to expel the non-national workers -- how many, who are they and why this plan now; what does it achieve?

GC:  It's perhaps the most significant deliberate population transfer we've seen attempted for decades, perhaps almost since World War Two. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, the son of the current king and heir designate ["MbS"] is planning under his Vision 2023 program to reduce the population of Saudi Arabia by at least 10 million; he probably will need to [expel] more than that. 

What he's trying to do is expel people from the kingdom who are foreign workers or illegal workers in the country.     

The population is currently estimated at about 32.28 million; it  would be more than that, it could be less -- we don't know; the census is unreliable. 

The suggestion is that under the census 8.5 million people were in the kingdom as foreign workers. The reality is that it's probably 2 to 3 times that number of people. So expelling 10 million people from the population in Saudi Arabia will not markedly impact the totality of the foreign workers there.

A lot of these workers come from the [Indian] subcontinent -- India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the like  -- and from the Philippines. But perhaps the dominant portion is from Yemen. Huge numbers, particularly the undocumented numbers, are from Ethiopia and  Eritrea. A lot of these people will not be easily able to return to their home countries.  

What we're seeing is an exodus that totally dwarfs the exodus coming from Syria, for example, during its current war. So this could have profound impacts on a lot of neighboring countries.  But it will also have an impact on the countries which provided legal workers because they've been sending home foreign exchange -- remittances from their salaries; this has been a huge amount of capital [for the legal workers' home countries].

But if MbS's plan works, it will save the Saudis $20-48 billion a year just in remittances sent out of the kingdom. Saudi Arabia is running at a really serious currency deficit at the moment. Its GDP has been dropping progressively since 2014 and is likely to go down even further in the coming decade as the petroleum and social and defense expenses continue to rise.

JB:  And how will [the Saudi government] do this? Is this a roundup, an expulsion? Are they giving [foreign workers] tickets home? Do they just deprive them of their residence cards so they can arrest them and deport them en masse?

GC:  It's been underway for some time, these deportations, particularly to the Horn of Africa countries -- Somalia, Somaliland, Eritrea, Ethiopia -- and it's been a very messy process. I believe most [deportees] have had to fund their own exits. But if MbS is going to get his way, I think the government will have to start airlifts by chartered Saudi aircraft to get [a large number of] people out of the kingdom.

It's not going to be easy. We're talking at least half a million Ethiopians. A couple days ago the Saudi government said they had 450,000 Ethiopians slated for deportation, but in fact it will go over a half billion [because] Ethiopian deportations have been underway for some time. 

Eritreans [face] an even more difficult situation. None of them want to go back to Eritrea because the country is in desperate straits economically right now. The government there is forcing men of all ages into conscription in the armed forces and keeping them there indefinitely. Reminiscent of the old Tsarist practice of conscripting people and keeping them for 20 to 40 years in the armed forces. That is what's going on now in Eritrea.

JB:  What will this large returning number do to Yemen or to Eritrea, which are volatile to begin with? Will it deepen the crisis at home, will it solve it; can the government refuse to accept its own nationals? I'm asking about Eritrea, Ethiopia and Yemen.

GC: I don't think these countries will refuse to accept their own nationals but the problem is that arrivals could face arrest and detention in Ethiopia or Eritrea. 

[Pundita note:  I am not sure why this would be so, unless it's that they left their countries illegally to work in Saudi Arabia and/or did not declare their foreign earnings to the home government.] 
In Yemen the situation is a lot more fluid because of the conflict [war]. And actually the Saudi deportation of Yemenis, literally pushing them across the border by land transportation, could have an even further damaging effect on Yemen's stability.

As we know Crown Prince Mohammad has now said he doesn't want to continue the war in Yemen. So, pushing [deportees in large numbers] back into Yemen might actually do more damage to the country than the Saudi bombing did.

But Yemen in any event is slated to polarize into its original two components -- south Yemen and north Yemen -- or even fracture even further into earlier incarnations with the Hadramaut sultanates and the like perhaps becoming sovereign again on the Indian Ocean side of Yemen.

JB: What about those remittances? [Being deprived of them] would damage the economies. These are fragile economies surrounding Saudi Arabia. Iraq's got a fragile economy, Jordan is fragile, certainly the Horn of Africa. Do we expect those governments to become unstable because the [remittance] money's not coming in anymore?          

GC:  It will certainly mean enormous difficulties for those countries, as it will for countries like the Philippines that have provided a lot of the household servants and workers in Saudi Arabia. This is going to have a really significant impact.

In 2016 we saw that remittances out of Saudi Arabia from foreign workers totaled about $40 billion. That's actually down a little bit from previous years. So [the loss of] $40 billion will have an impact on these countries. For example when you think that Ethiopia's total GDP is about $25 billion and worker remittances into the country are around $5-6 billion.  So you knock a billion or two off that, and you're really having a significant impact on the economy and GDP of a country like Ethiopia.

JB:  Now about Saudi Arabia. Losing this number of workers -- can it make up for the lost labor? The OECD is telling us right now there is a labor shortage around the world. Is Saudi Arabia going to force out the dependents of the foreign workers and keep the trained people?

GC: I think it will keep the highly trained people. But you've got a situation in Saudi Arabia where the country is becoming increasingly polarized between the higher income brackets and the foreign workers, who are becoming of some concern to Saudi Arabia's social fabric. [However, the government] will have to provide more social services for [foreign workers] in any event -- even the remaining ones; it will have to provide a lot more social services and infrastructure to sustain them. 

So the real thing is getting [the large number of foreign workers] out of the country before more [social] damage is created. The Saudis can't afford to keep them. They will have to learn to do without them as cheap labor. But I think that's also MbS's Vision 2030 program -- to make the country much more productive and self reliant, and less reliant on oil and gas revenues as well.

JB:  I'm speaking with Gregory Copley, the Editor and Publisher of Defense & Foreign Affairs. We're going to move from focusing on Saudi Arabia to the whole of the Arabian peninsula and then the Gulf, and then the entire region because of a new quadripartite strategic bloc just forming now. One of the players in the bloc is Russia. 


The next part of the discussion starts at the 11:35 minute mark on the Audioboom podcast.


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