Riyadh: Clashes among foreign workers, Saudi residents and security forces in a Riyadh neighborhood killed two people and wounded 68 as Saudi Arabia pushes a tough countrywide crackdown on improperly documented foreign laborers, Riyadh police said early Sunday.
Police arrested 561 people in the violence in the Manfouha neighborhood, according to a pre-dawn statement from Riyadh police carried by the state news agency.
The dead were one Saudi and another, unidentified person, the statement said.
The police statement described “instigators” roaming Manfouha, throwing stones at Saudi residents of the neighborhood and others and threatening people with knives. A video purportedly taken in Manfouha and posted on social media overnight showed noisy, angry crowds in the street and blood-stained men.
In the video, men who appeared to be Saudis used crude clubs on dark-skinned men, pummeling one man as he curled on the ground.
Manfouha is a neighborhood of shops and homes with both Saudis and foreign workers from Ethiopia and elsewhere.
Saudi Arabia on November 4 began enforcing a crackdown on migrant workers in Saudi Arabia who lack the proper visas and work permits. Authorities and the Asian and African countries providing most of the laborers say thousands have been arrested.
Earlier this week, Saudi media reported authorities shot and killed one Ethiopian man when he allegedly tried to grab an officer’s gun when police stopped him, in the labor crackdown.
Saudi Arabia, with a total population of 30 million, is home to more than 7 million foreign workers and their families. Many economists say the reliance on low-paid foreign workers is depressing development and diversification of the Saudi economy.
While Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries in the past have launched repeated programs to reduce the number of foreign workers in their economies, Saudi Arabia’s crackdown this month marks a rare enforcement of such a campaign.