According to a migrant human rights group, a mass deportation policy in Saudi Arabia is counterintuitive and is ultimately harming the nation’s economy.

Migrant Rights reported in its website that “Nitaqat” led to the deportation of more than 800,000 migrants in 2013 and is now putting pressure on companies that play a substantial role in the kingdom’s economy.

“Saudi’s volatile policies against undocumented workers and Nitaqat-incompliant companies not only contravenes migrants’ rights, but have again proven detrimental to Saudi’s economy,” the groups claims.

The fact that many shops are expected to close and that companies have had a difficult time recruiting nationals due to low wages are only two of many unintended consequences of the policy. But many, including economists, have predicted the “adverse economic consequences of Saudi’s nationalization schemes” since before the Nitaqat’s debut in late 2011.

“Both international observers and local employers warned that the rigid imposition of national quotas coupled with mass deportations would debilitate sectors of the Saudi economy and could even lead to a reduction in national employment rates,” claims Migrant Right’s website.

Despite Nitaqat’s having a negative effect on Saudi Arabia’s economy, Migrant Rights is mainly concerned about the challenges the policy forces migrant workers to face. The group asserts that it results in “coercive factors” such as employers wrongly accusing migrants as “huroob” (runaways) so they can hire new workers.

Under the policy, “migrants who escape are considered illegal – they are not entitled to any back pay, and can be fined, indefinitely detained and deported.” However, migrants have already been affected by another system placed within Saudi Arabia prior to Nitaqat.

According to Human Rights Watch (HRW,) many migrants are abused, exploited and even forced work against their will under the kafala system.

“The kafala (sponsorship) system ties migrant workers’ residency permits to “sponsoring” employers, who written consent is required for workers to change employers or exit the country,” claims HRW. However, employers take advantage of the system by stealing the migrants’ passports and forcing them to work without being paid.

Saudi Arabia is home to over nine million migrant workers. For the most part, these workers take on clerical and customer service jobs. They make more than half the kingdom’s workforce.

Migrant workers end up in Saudi Arabia and other gulf nations in order to have the opportunities that their own lands could not provide. If it wishes to help people stemming from impoverished countries as well as its own economy, the Saudi government must put an end to the Nitaqat and Kafala polices.

Juan Campos

Sources: Human Rights Watch, Migrant Rights
Photo: Dady Chery