Severe poverty often drives workers to seek employment abroad. Yet, in some cases migrants are vulnerable to exploitation and deportation, which can put their very lives at risk. Our partner at the International Organization for Migration (IOM) tells the story of destitute migrant workers who were expelled from Saudi Arabia to Yemen.
Ibrahim left his home in Sana’a to work in Saudi Arabia as a carpenter. While working there, he fell down from a building, breaking his spinal cord. Ibrahim spent 4 months in a Saudi hospital, then was later expelled from the country through Al-Tawal Border Crossing point where he was received by Yemeni Immigration officials who handed him over to a medical doctor of the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
He was then referred for further medical attention in a private hospital in Haradh where he was stabilised and counselled before being reunited with his family members. “We are grateful to those who helped our son,” says Ibrahim’s father as he supports him to sit in his wheel chair. Although Ibrahim will not be able to walk again due to his injury, his family members are grateful that he is in stable condition.
Extreme levels of poverty and food insecurity in Yemen, combined with localised conflict force hundreds of thousands of Yemeni migrants to seek employment opportunities in Saudi Arabia. The story of Ibrahim is one shared by thousands of vulnerable migrant workers who were expelled from Saudi Arabia as a result of a nationwide strategy to restructure its labour market and policies towards the recruitment of foreign workers. Saudi Arabia’s ‘Nitaqat’ system, which was implemented in 2013 to better regulate foreign labour in the country, prompted large-scale deportations of irregular workers and massive returns of foreign migrant workers from the country.
Due to its immediate land proximity and shared borders with Saudi Arabia, Yemen has been severely affected and absorbs most of these expelled migrant workers. Since the early stages of the crisis in June 2013, the IOM has continued to provide emergency health care and stabilisation, food, water and material assistance to vulnerable returnees with funding from the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO). In the month of September 2014 alone, it assisted more than 20 000 migrant returnees from the Saudi Arabia. Together, IOM and ECHO supported all vulnerable returnees with more than 18 000 food and non-food items.
Often, migrant workers are deported from their host country with no notice, and are forced to immediately leave without their belongings. Non-food items distributed by IOM therefore consisted of protective clothing and footwear, which helps to alleviate the suffering and preserve the dignity of destitute migrants who have been expelled from their host country. This type of aid is a core component of IOM’s emergency response programme.
The majority of returnees from the KSA are received by IOM through the Al-Tawal Border Crossing point between Yemen and the Saudi Arabia, approximately 10km north of Haradh in the Hajjah Governorate.
ECHO funding has also enabled IOM to provide transport assistance to the most vulnerable groups of returnees, particularly women, children, medical patients and those who are physically challenged. IOM’s assistance to the approximately 1 000 returnees who cross into Yemen each day is conducted through close coordination and liaison with the Ministry of Expatriate Affairs, Immigration and Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour.”