SANAA // Saudi Arabia has begun deporting thousands of Yemeni labourers following new regulations requiring foreigners to work only for their sponsors, a Yemeni official said yesterday, a move that could "significantly damage" the poor country's economy.
Some two million of Yemen's 25 million citizens work abroad, more than half of them in larger and richer neighbour Saudi Arabia. Remittances bring in $2 billion a year to Yemen, a country still grappling with revolt, a separatist movement and an Islamist insurgency.
"If the decision is implemented, it will cause significant damage to the ... Yemeni economy, of which expatriates are a backbone since their remittances reach about $2 billion a year," Rajeh Badi, adviser to Yemen's prime minister, told Reuters.
Badi said the issue would affect more than 200,000 Yemenis who will have entered Saudi Arabia on a work visa, but who do not work for the sponsor they originally registered with.
Saudi Arabia is stepping up efforts to cut unemployment among its citizens. In recent days Saudi media has reported an increase in Labour Ministry checks of companies looking for employees not properly registered with the firm they work for.
Badi said the Yemeni government was holding talks with Saudi officials to try and give the Yemeni workers a chance to "rectify their legal situations".
The Yemeni Defence Ministry's website estimated up to 2,000 Yemenis were being deported daily since the new regulations went into effect some 10 days ago.