Saudi Arabia suspends work visas for Yemenis without official announcement
Saudi cuts Yemeni work visas: thousands in danger
The Saudi Foreign Ministry has abruptly and without an official announcement suspended work visas for Yemeni workers. This could further exacerbate the current humanitarian situation and put thousands more Yemeni families in danger of starvation.
The Office of Consular Affairs at the Saudi Embassy in Yemen suspended the issuance of work visas to Yemeni workers abruptly and without warning nearly a month ago, according to sources familiar with the matter.
In May 2017, the functions of the Saudi Embassy In Sana’a and Consulate in Aden were assumed by a newly-opened office for consular affairs in Jeddah. This office carries out consular duties, cooperating with tourism agencies, for both Yemeni pilgrims en route to Mecca, and Yemeni guest workers in Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi embassy's service offices operated in conjunction with tourism and travel companies throughout Yemen help facilitate the entry of Yemenis to Saudi by acting as a place where Yemenis can apply for Saudi pilgrimage and work visas. From these offices, Yemeni passports are sent to Jeddah for processing by the Consular Affairs Office and usually returned on a weekly basis. However, for what is now coming to a month, the consular Office in Jeddah has refused to process Yemeni passports, sources have reported.
The same sources have also pointed out that hundreds of young people have been asked to undergo new medical examinations in hospitals accredited by the Saudi embassy, following the expiration of tests done in the past. The Saudi Embassy requires Yemeni visa applicants to undergo medical examinations conducted only at embassy-accredited hospitals, and no earlier than a month prior to entry. The following hospitals are the only accredited ones in the country: Saber and Al Razi Hospitals in Aden, and the Saudi German and Azal Hospitals in Houthi-controlled Sana’a.
The costs for Yemenis embarking on either pilgrimage or work journeys to Saudi Arabia are also extremely high. The medical tests required for Saudi visa applicants in Yemen cost between 48 and 59 thousand Yemeni riyals (approximately $100). Obtaining a passport itself can cost roughly 200,000 YR (more than $400). A work visa costs approximately 10,000 Saudi riyals, or close to 1.5 million YR, while the extra fees incurred by applicants paying the agencies facilitating the applications can cost up to 600 Saudi riyals, around 40,000 Yemeni riyals.
Saudi Arabia is the main destination for many Yemenis seeking employment, in light of the economic and humanitarian crisis unfolding in Yemen. livelihoods throughout Yemen are being decimated due to the continued conflict, driving emigration rates.
Thousands of Yemenis — many of whom have sold all their family's gold and savings — have been waiting for months in the hopes that Saudi authorities will reconsider their decision and begin granting visas to Yemenis once again.
Upon publication on this article, despite repeated attempts by the editor of Al-Masdar Online to communicate with the Saudi Consulate in Aden, and the Saudi Ambassador to Yemen, Mohammed Al-Jaber, there has yet been no official response.
According to previous statements by the Saudi ambassador, Saudi Arabia hosts more than half a million displaced Yemenis and granted 81,000 work visas to Yemenis in 2018.
Over the past year, Saudi Arabia has deported more than twice as many Yemenis as the previous year. This has been argued as a financial measure not exclusive to Yemenis. Saudis have repeatedly affirmed their full and “exceptional” support for Yemen during the humanitarian crisis. However, as Saudi increases the taxes it imposes on, and restricts the entrance of foreign workers to the country, no exceptions are made in the case of Yemenis on humanitarian grounds.
The president and a number of Yemeni officials including the speaker of parliament, most of whom reside in Saudi, have spoken at different times about Saudi exemptions made for Yemeni expatriates and guest workers in Saudi, but none of these have so far materialised. Efforts to revive talks addressing the issue of Yemeni guest workers in Saudi — stalled for more than a year ago — have been unsuccessful.