10/25/2004, 00.00
SAUDI ARABIA
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New restrictions on foreigners who apply for Saudi citizenship

Riyadh (AsiaNews) – The Saudi government approved an amendment to the Nationality Law making it harder for foreigners resident in the Kingdom to obtain Saudi citizenship. The law now requires ten years of residence instead of five.

According to the secretary of the ministry of the interior, Naser Bin Hamad al-Hanaya, the law also requires applicants to have professional skills the country needs in fields such as medicine, physics, sciences, computer science and information technology.

The new law penalises both Saudi and foreign women. Saudi women who marry foreign nationals cannot hold dual citizenship. If they take their husband's nationality they lose their Saudi citizenship. Foreign women who marry Saudi men and who live in Saudi Arabia must renounce their own citizenship. Children of foreign women and unknown fathers cannot become Saudi.

Saudi citizenship can be taken away if the new "Saudi citizen violates the country's security".

The government expects about a million people to apply for Saudi citizenship. However, the number does not include the 500,000 Palestinians living in the kingdom who are explicitly barred from Saudi citizenship in accordance with Arab League directive against naturalising Palestinians out of fear that the latter might "lose their Palestinian identity" and in order "to preserve their right to return".

According to Labour Ministry data, the resident population of Saudi Arabia is 25 million people including 8.8 million foreigners. The largest communities are from Bangladesh, India and Pakistan (1.5 million in total). Immigrants from Egypt, Sudan and the Philippines number 900,000. There are also 500,000 Indonesians and 350,000 Sri Lankans (mostly women).

Religious freedom does not exist in Saudi Arabia. Foreigners are subject to all sorts of oppressive restrictions because of their religion. All religious practices other than those of Islam are forbidden. (LF)

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