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Immigration

Immigrants surrender after Saudi government crackdown leads to deadly riots

Hundreds of illegal immigrants targeted in a nationwide crackdown by the Saudi government have turned themselves in. Clashes earlier between authorities and the migrants killed two people and injured dozens more.

Foreign workers leavng Saudi Arabia

The immigrants gathered in Riyadh on Sunday before being transferred by bus to an assembly center. They are then to be deported, just a week after their seven-month amnesty expired.

Overnight, immigrants of mainly Ethiopian origin rioted in the impoverished Manfuhah neighborhood of the capital. Police said they intervened after the immigrants attacked Saudis and other foreign expats with rocks and knives. The Manfuhah district is home to many illegal immigrants, most of whom come from East Africa.

"The rioting left two people dead, one of them is Saudi while the nationality of the other is not known yet," said a security official in a statement, without explaining how they were killed. A further 68 people were wounded and in the unrest and 560 suspects were detained, the statement added.

Four days earlier, an Ethiopian man was killed in the same area while fleeing police during a security raid on undocumented workers. Authorities said the man was trying to grab a gun.

Crackdown on illegal immigrants

On Monday police started a nationwide crackdown on illegal immigrants after the end of a seven-month amnesty for foreign workers whose permits had expired or who were not working for their official sponsors. Thousands of immigrants have since been deported from the country after they failed to legalize their status during the amnesty period, according to local media.

Nearly a million migrants from countries including Bangladesh, the Philippines, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Yemen, left the country during the amnesty period. The Ethiopian government on Saturday said it was repatriating citizens who had failed to meet the amnesty deadline.

Foreigners make up more than 9 million of Saudi Arabia's population of 29 million, according to the 2010 census. Migrants come from Asia and poorer Arab states seeking work, including low-paid jobs as domestics or construction workers.

The oil-rich Gulf kingdom has been criticized for its restrictions on foreign workers, which limit people to working for a single employer under a sponsorship program. Rights groups say the system makes the workers vulnerable to exploitation.

The government says its recent efforts to bring the hammer down on illegal immigrants are aimed at providing more jobs for its citizens. The unemployment rate in Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil exporter, is 12 percent.

dr/mz (AFP, dpa, AP)

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