Fatality Confirmed at Indonesian Consulate Protest in Saudi Arabia
Updated at 12:05 p.m.
An imminent crackdown on illegal migrant labor by Saudi Arabia caused chaos at the Indonesia consulate in Jeddah on Sunday as thousands of Indonesian workers attempting to clarify their immigration status threw rocks at the building and started a fire at its perimeter.
A statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Monday confirmed that an Indonesian had died during the disturbance. No further details were available.
The Indonesian ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Gatot Abdullah Mansyur, told Detik.com that 5,000 workers were queuing to have their travel documents verified on Sunday afternoon. The Saudi Arabia government is to begin a crackdown on illegal labor from July 3.
“The counter usually opened at 4 or 5 p.m. however it was still not open at 6 p.m. yesterday because of the weather,” he said.
Temperatures frequently exceed 40C and hundreds of protesters fainted, according to the ministry’s statement.
Some 180,000 illegal foreign workers have left Saudi Arabia since April 1 under an amnesty that allows them to try to sort out their papers or leave without paying a penalty, a newspaper report said on Sunday.
This wave brings to 380,000 the number of foreign workers who have left Saudi Arabia since the beginning of the year.
Workers without proper papers are becoming increasingly concerned as violators of the immigration rules in the oil-rich kingdom will face penalties when the amnesty period ends on July 3, with punishment including imprisonment up to two years, and fines up to 100,000 riyals ($27,000).
According to official statistics, eight million expatriates work in the kingdom. Economists say there are another two million unregistered foreign workers.
Saudi Arabia is aiming to create job opportunities for its own unemployed by cutting the number of foreign workers, although many of those are in low-paid jobs that Saudis would not accept.
Before the ministry released its statement, while reports of the death were still being investigated, presidential spokesman Teuku Faizasyah told the Jakarta Globe that a security guard had been injured in the disturbance.