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Saudi Arabia’s foreign labour crackdown

by on January 23, 2014

The world not long ago witnessed Saudi Arabia’s approach on removing over 2million immigrants as a solution for ways of reducing the 12% unemployment rate among native Saudis. There are approximately around 9 million migrant workers in the country & the work force, filling manual, clerical & service jobs are mostly done by migrant workers.
Saudi Arabia’s addiction to cheap foreign labour goes back to the oil boom and religious awakening of the mid – 1970s. Nearly a million, Bangladesh, Indian, Filipinos, Nepalese, Pakistanis, Yemenis and many from east Africa repatriated from the country since the labour crack down started in march, 2013. Khalid al maeena, editor in chief of the Saudi gazette, said many Saudis welcome a crackdown on illegal immigrants, but there are questions about who will fill their jobs. ‘’ most of the jobs that are being done are menial jobs’’, they do work in farms, they do many jobs that the Saudis’ don’t. Reports circulated of the death of few Ethiopian men, prompting the Ethiopian foreign ministry to issue a statement that it ‘’ condemned the killing of an Ethiopian and mistreatment of its citizens residing in Saudi Arabia.

Media:- the new weapon to devolve power from the nation state to individuals?

Before this issue received a coverage from the news media on the 14th of November, an outburst of information on social media specially on facebook and twitter was circulating, videos from different sources including those leaked from the people held in camp containing of disturbing images, showed such videos as the Saudi employers beating immigrant workers & men being beaten to death by police officers. using social media all Ethiopians living all over the world have launched campaign to expose the atrocities & demand the Saudi government to stop the violence against Ethiopians and the international government to put pressure on Saudi government to condemn the ill treatments. Many people changed their profile pictures on facebook to the picture below captioning, Stop the violence’ to condemn Saudis’ action and twitter spread enormously with a hash tag of #someonetellsaudiarabia.


and later many protests were held in front of Saudi Arabia embassies all across Europe and the united states of America. twitter and facebook are mainly responsible to putting this protest together. Social media helped bring what was happening in Saudi to light.



the question is did anyone? Was the current mass media influential enough to bring some sort of change? The country did not take responsibility for the ill treatment of the illegal immigrants nor were there any condemnation made by the international community. The CNN effect suggests public opinion can be changed by information drawn from international news report which may apply pressure on governments to engage policy reforms. Perhaps one can argue, the reverse of CNN effect is the only thing that happened in this case, social media mobilizing news coverage.

As Ronald regan said in his speech in 1989, could technology’s roll only be making it ‘difficult for the state to control the information its people receive… the Goliath of totalitarianism will be brought down by the david of the microchip.’’ and as Rami khouri, an arab journalist wrote in july 2010, it looks as if the growing media is ‘’ more like a stress reliever than a mechanism for political change.’’

(WARNING) Shocking video – Saudis beating immigrants


P. M. Taylor, Global Communications: International Affairs and the Media since 1945 (London: Routledge, 1997)

Philip seib, real time diplomacy: politics and power in the social media era, 2012


From → Uncategorized

  1. Aida A Muluneh permalink

    Not only is this informative but it left me with the same question. What has been done following the demonstrations and the media coverage? This is one of the cases where the effect of the the media wasn’t effective enough. (smh)

    • АэýÑÁэй:Д¡Â° почему 13 лет, что сказали писать то и пишут а то вклад не вернут. Это же ммм 2011

  2. We all were shocked to see our fellow brothers and sisters being treated barbaricly by one of the most repressive and behind the times regime in the world, Saudi Arabia. Ethiopians all over the world protested agains the human right violation that was taking place at the time. If, as they claimed, the imigrants had been working there illegally, they could have been detained and deported back to their country in a more civilized and humanely manner. Instead, many of them were subjected to beatings and lynching, women were sexually assaulted and brutally treated like animals. The Saudis reply to our protests was one of contemptuous; saying that they were just removing illegal imigrants from their soil.

  3. The in humane treatment of our citizens at the hand of the Saudi police snd some rogue public elements has angered us a lot. It is a nice and well researched post Lidya and will email the link to friends and families. We may not be there to voice our concern but there is always internet and social media to get our message across!

  4. Christian permalink

    What happened in Saudia against Ethiopians was totally in humane and horrifying. Lidya.. This is a well written report.. Good job.

  5. Hi,

    This is very interesting article reflecting current problem in Saudi Arabia. It is hard to say what the outcome if this situation would be. The problem is that people like Saudi columnist Abdulrahman Al-Zuhayyan believe, that migrants are isolating themselves by choosing to live in separate neighbourhood. However this is absolute nonsense as Saudi Arabia has set up such social-economic boundaries. Those boundaries are also reinforced by citizens who do not wish to live next to low income migrants. Al- Zuhayyan also argues that foreigners rarely interact with local and communicate with badly spoken Arabia and sign language. However such problem is also result of the racial and socio-economic hierarchy reinforced by strategic state policy. Sadly, negative attitudes towards migration are not exclusive to Saudi Arabia, and nor are Saudi Arabians uniform in their attitudes or actions. Unfortunately, in recent years, media have covered migration problems more frequently and started wider social dialogues. We often witness systematic abuse that frequently escalates into violence, like shown on your video.

  6. This is an interesting campaign. Thank you for selecting it for your entry on the blog. It is a good example of a global social media campaign on a particular issue and its limitations. Perhaps you could say a bit more about how it relates to the themes and literature of the module. Blog posts work best when they employ a novel case study to explore what it tells us about the general themes of the module.

    There are also some issues with presentation which need to be corrected, such as lower-case first letters in names and the absence of references supporting quotations.

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  1. Gentlemen, Since you are doing such a good job with Illegals in your country… | Home Grown News Media

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