November 1996 Volume 3 Number 11
UAE Expels Migrants
The United Arab Emirates in October continued to expel thousands of illegal migrants, leading, in at least one case, to labor shortages. Foreigners make up about 75 percent of the 2.4 million population in the UAE.
Illegal foreign workers were ordered to leave the UAE in August and the original September 30, 1996 deadline was extended to October 31, 1996. Most of the illegal workers are from India, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran. Most arrived legally and then stayed after their visas expired or illegally changed jobs.
The UAE reports that as of early October, some 145,000 foreigners from India, the Philippines, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Iran had left. Many of the Indians wishing to leave cannot afford the airfare home, so the Indian government is sending boats to bring Indian workers home. The Indian state of Kerala expects about 30,000 migrants to return from the UAE.
Tough new penalties on illegal aliens go into effect on November 1, 1996, including fines of up to 30,000 dirhams ($8,200) and three years in jail. Boat owners bringing illegal aliens into the country face up to 15 years in prison and fines of between 15,000 dirhams and 100,000 dirhams ($4,100 - $27,000).
The Philippine government reports that about 6,000 Filipinos in the UAE plan to leave before the October 31, 1996 deadline. Three out of four Filipinos working abroad are the sole supporter of their families. The Manila labor monitor, Migrante, found that within one month of their return, most foreign workers are broke. Many of the Filipinos who leave the UAE are expected to seek employment in other countries.
King Fahd of Saudi Arabia on October 21 called on Saudi private businesses to employ more Saudi workers. The announcement came three days after the Saudi government refused to renew residency permits for foreign workers in 13 occupations, including guards, receptionists and administrators.
Saudi Arabia in October 1996 barred foreign laborers from driving or owning cars, according to the Filipino Overseas Workers Welfare Administration. Foreigners classified as watchmen and servants are not affected by the ban. There are about 600,000 Filipinos working in Saudi Arabia as domestic helpers, manual laborers and technicians.
"Saudi king calls on private sector to hire more Saudi laborers," Xinhua News Agency, October 22, 1996. "More Saudis to replace foreigners," UPI, October 24, 1996. "Filipino laborers in Saudi Arabia banned from driving, owning cars," Agence France Presse, October 10, 1996. Edgar C. Cadano, "Labour nationalization plan needs evaluation, expert tells Gulf firms," Moneyclips, October 7, 1996. "UAE says 144,979 illegal workers have left," Reuters, October 7, 1996. "Asian nations count cost of UAE expulsion of illegal workers," Agence France Presse, October 6, 1996.