Ethiopian Infiltrators Surrender in Saudi Arabia

Roughly 23,000 Ethiopians turn themselves in to authorities in Saudi Arabia following crackdown on illegal workers.

Ari Yashar ,

Illustration: Infiltrators in South Tel Aviv
Illustration: Infiltrators in South Tel Aviv
Yoni Kempinski

In Saudia Arabia, roughly 23,000 Ethiopian illegal migrants have turned themselves in, following a clampdown on illegal foreign workers last week, BBC reports.

Nearly a million illegal workers reportedly left the country in the past 3 months, ahead of the government's announced round-up of illegals starting November 3. That deadline ended a 7-month period allowing illegals to formalize their work status in the country, during which 4 million migrants obtained work permits.

The crackdown on illegal labor led 23,000 Ethiopians to surrender, with some already returned to their country on Wednesday.

Riyadh governor Prince Khaled bin Bandar bin Abdulaziz pledged to "continue these campaigns until we ensure all residents in our country are staying legally."

The clampdown also led to clashes later on Wednesday in Riyadh, the nation's capital, leaving at least 5 dead as rioters threw rocks, according to police.

Meanwhile Arab News reports that Thursday morning Ethiopian rioters continued to cause disorder and block traffic.

There are roughly 9 million migrant workers in Saudi Arabia, and they are said to make up half of the Saudi work force. Authorities say the crackdown aims to reduce the 12% unemployment rate among native Saudis.

Israel has similarly been struggling with the problem of illegal infiltrators entering from Africa. A new security fence bordering the Sinai has cut illegal entry by 99%, but there are an estimated 55,000 infiltrators already living in Israel.

In September the Supreme Court ruled that jailing infiltrators is "unconstitutional." In repsonse Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu promised to find a solution to the problem and return the infiltrators to their countries.