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Saudi Arabia: Hundreds of migrant workers live under a bridge hoping to get deported

On November 6, 2009

AFP reported today about over 1,000 migrant workers in Saudi Arabia are living under the King Fahd Road bridge in Jeddah, hoping to get deported. Some of those workers fled their abusive sponsors, were abandoned by them, gone unpaid, or they are illegal workers. They all lack the necessary documentation to leave Saudi Arabia: their passport and an exit permit. The dwellers under the bridge hope to be rounded up by immigration authorities and given a plane ticket back home. Some of them have waited for months, living exposed to the elements in unsanitary conditions.

According to Saudi law, once a worker enters the country, his passport is confiscated and kept by his sponsor. Therefore, workers who flee their employers, are left without the needed documents to return home. The AFP article highlights the stort of Trina Chandrakarya, a Sri Lankan woman who worked in Saudi Arabia as a maid. After she had gone unpaid for five months, she fled her sponsor and worked in the black market. Now she wishes to return to her children back home, but she doesn't have her passport or an exit permit.

It should be noted that a report by The National Newspaper (UAE) covered this phenomenon in late September. In their report, the migrants staying under the bridge are doing so to "piggyback" on the Saudi government's tradition of paying for the tickets home of Umra and Hajj over-stayers. The National report asserts that while the lack of passports and exit permits "complicates and delays" the deportation process, the reason these workers choose to live under the bridge for months is to avoid paying for their flight home.