New oil behind Saudi-Yemeni strained relations,
Yemeni workers escape-goat
By Nasser Arrabyee, 02/04/2013
About 20,000 Yemeni expatriates were deported from the neighboring oil-rich Saudi Arabia over the last few weeks. With the deportation continuing, the Saudi authorities say the reason behind this is the violation of the law not anything else.
However, some observers,expatriates and some Yemenis at the borders with Saudi Arabia where new oil fields are being invested, say the reason is purely political and not legal.
The issue of Yemeni expatriates coming back to Yemen as deportees and the bad treatments and harassments of those still there has become very public issue nowadays in Yemen and attracted attention local and international media.
Yemenis and their fragile government are very concerned about possible returning of hundreds of thousands of Yemeni workers to already worsening economy of conflicts-torn Yemen. More one million Yemeni workers were forced to leave Saudi Arabia and other gulf countries after Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Yemen is still suffering from that huge number of jobless people until now.
In an attempt to calm down the increasing anger of Yemenis and stop media escalations,the officials of the two countries keep denying political reasons and playing down the problem. The Yemeni minister of expatriates, Abdullah Al Kuhali begged media not to talk about a crisis between the two countries.
The President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi formed a delegation chaired by prime minister Mohammed Basundwah to go and discuss with Saudi officials the status of Yemeni workers. The delegation,however, is still waiting for entry visas according to informed sources.
The director of Yemen office of the Saudi-dominated Gulf Cooperation Council ( GCC) to Sanaa, ambassador Saad Al Arifi denied any problem or crisis or bad treatments against Yemeni workers in Saudi Arabia.
"The labor law in Saudi Arabia was issued years ago, and the recent decree of Cabinet was issued only to activate the law," said Al Arifi in reference to the most controversial decree that obligates any worker in Saudi Arabia to work only with those who brought them to Saudi Arabia ( be it individual or organization, called guarantor).
Some Yemeni expatriates say there is nothing new in the decree or in the law but they see the new is in the treatment.
"Before this crisis, the Saudi officials would ignore those who work with someone other than their guarantor as long as they legally entered," said the expatriate Rashid Morshid.
" The majority, if not all, of the Yemeni workers in Saudi Arabia work with people other than their guarantors, would they deport all of us," wondered Mr Murshid who has been working in Saudi Arabia for more than 30 years.
" Now we live in terror, although I am working with my guarantor, I feel that I and everybody else is a target for this strange campaign."
Some observers here say the new Yemeni oil wells are behind the strained relations between Saudi Arabia and Yemen and this reflected on Yemeni workers and it is not a matter of application of law and regulations.
Yemen announced that May 15, 2013, will be the deadline for receiving applications from international companies for investment in five new oil sectors including the sector of Al Jawf 19, Al Sabateen basin, at the southern border of Saudi Arabia.
This part of the country, Al Jawf, more specifically, Al Yatamah, is witnessing tensions and sometimes clashes between tribesmen of Thu Hussein and Saudi soldiers positioned only less than 1 km away from tribesmen.
According to sources familiar with oil tenders, Saudi Arabia wanted to impose its most famous and largest oil company AramCo to be the main investor of the new Yemeni oil sectors especially Al Jawf sector 19, important and big sector at southern border of Saudi Arabia.
The Yemeni government welcomed the Saudi investor AramCo to apply like any one and wait for the results of the tenders according to the Yemenis laws.
The Saudi officials asked the Yemeni government to accept AramCo directly without applications and tenders.
When the Yemeni government said ' we can not allow any one to violate the law', the Saudi Arabia answered ' we also can not allow any one to violate our laws' , referring to Yemeni workers who work with people other than their guarantors violating the Saudi laws.
The Yemeni government wants either American or Turkish companies or both of them to win the tenders according to the sources.
Al Jawf tribesmen in general and Thu Hussein tribesmen in particular in Al Yatamah are refusing any work in their lands. They blame both governments of Yemen and Saudi Arabia for taking their lands and waters and oil and minerals without any compensation.
" We are not with Yemeni government nor with the Saudi government, we are with our lands and our resources," said Sheikh Hassan Abu Hadra, spokesman of Thu Hussein tribes who are now positioned in trenches in Al Yatamah.
" We are harmed by Saudis working in our lands, Saudis are taking our water from our lands and pump it to Saudi Arabia in front of our eyes, this is very dangerous and will stick to our rights," said Abu Hadrah over phone from Al Jawf province.
Abu Hadra refers to Saudi working on a separating wall at the border with Saudi Arabia. He said Saudi soldiers do not respect agreements between the two countries that each side should leave 20 km empty.
"The tension here is rising and hatred to Saudis is increasing specially now after Saudi officials started to kick out people from their work in Saudi ArabiA," said Abu Hadrah.