Saudi efforts to rectify the status of foreign workers has led to violence as a riot broke out among the thousands of Indonesian expats waiting outside their country’s consulate in Jeddah. There are rumors that one woman was killed in the resulting fire, but there has yet to be an official report on the number of casualties.
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Saudi Arabia recently launched a major crackdown on foreign workers who were in the Kingdom on invalid visas, either because they had switched employers or because their actual employment did not match the job description on the visas. Rather than deporting all of the affected workers, the country provided a deadline of July 3 for the expats to rectify their status, either by leaving and re-entering on a new visa or by going through their local consulate.
However, Indonesian workers reported that their consulate made it nearly impossible to rectify their legal status. According to statements to the media, the consulate provided inadequate crowd control and subjected their citizens to interminable waiting times. The level of stress at the consulate rose as the July 3 amnesty deadline came closer.
On Sunday, these tensions came to a boiling point as angry Indonesians began to pelt their consulate with stones. This was followed by a riot in which fire was set to anything that would burn in the consulate’s entrance. The AFP quoted a consulate worker as saying that one woman was killed in the fire, though the Indonesian ambassador told Arab News that none of its employees were killed and that the conflagration did not reach the consulate building itself.
This is not the first incident of violence at the Indonesian consulate since the Saudi government set its deadline. There was a stampede on Saturday in which three women were seriously injured. The casualty toll from this latest act is not yet known.