Saudi Gazette Blames Migrants for Everything

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Sep 26 2013

In an article published on September 18, the English-language newspaper Saudi Gazette claimed (unnamed) studies "have proven beyond doubt that the majority of crimes in the Kingdom are being committed by expatriates" and accused migrants of conspiring to protect criminals.  Of course, no statistics were referenced, but this perfunctory demonization of migrants, harnessing already deeply entrenched xenophobia,  is a regular feature of Gulf publications and official parlance.

The Gazette quoted Shura council member Ali al-Tamimi absurdly claiming "the crimes of drug trafficking, theft, robbery, forgery, prostitution and alcohol brewery are all new to our society,” (artificially) distancing or 'othering' citizens from migrants. Of course, migrants' massive economic contributions are disregarded entirely - their existence being the backbone of the service sector, the construction sector, and many other such important facets of Saudi society. Of course, the Saudi royal family's acts of criminality (including the murder of a servant) and lewdness are concurrently disregarded.

Al-Tamimi held that undocumented migrants pose the greatest threat, claiming that most crimes “have been committed by expatriates, particularly those living illegally among us." Of course, Tamimi does not mention the crimes committed against migrant workers every day by the Saudi government, by  sponsors, and by everyday citizens. Of course, he does not contextualize the "illegality" of migrant workers, who are frequently pushed into an undocumented status by overly restrictive migration laws, unscrupulous recruitment agencies, fraudulent companies, and abusive employers.

To acquit security forces, al-Tamimi said

“monitoring expatriates is not an easy mission since they live together in certain districts and are very protective of each other.”

Of course, he does not mention that migrants are strategically marginalized in labor camps and low-quality housing, away from city centers reserved for "families" (i.e. Saudi citizens).

He also blames migrants for “depriving a large number of Saudis of employment opportunities.” Of course, al-Tamimi neglects the fact that the majority of migrants work jobs Saudis do not want (but desperately need), and that recent efforts to deport migrants and replace them with Saudi workers has triggered a sharp decline in the construction sector - meaning even less jobs for nationals.

Al-Tamimi utilizes the classic 'reverse victimization' trope recurrent throughout Gulf media; he demands punishment against those who “abuse citizens physically and verbally.” Of course, he disregards the fact that under the de facto dual legal system, migrant workers are detained and automatically deported almost effortlessly, while violent employers and extortionist agencies are rarely brought to justice. (The verbal abuse of migrants, particularly domestic workers, would constitute a laughable offense in the Kingdom.)

Al-Tamimi's strategy to end these obscure, foreign-beget problems including training migrants prior to granting them visas, and requiring medical and psychiatric checks:

“If they are not checked and properly punished, the foreigners will continue to commit crimes” he explained.

Of course, the fact that migrants already undergo pre-departure training and overly-intrusive medical checks is besides the point. Of course, employers should not require similar testing to ensure they are fair and equitable to their workers.

Al-Tamimi does not seem to think the deportation of over a million migrant workers - this year alone - is enough to stymie the existentialist threat they pose to Saudi society (as he calls for the expansion of such campaigns), though of course, these reports are not intended to critically examine the systematic transgressions against migrant workers but rather to further justify their disenfranchisement.

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