02/12/2008, 00.00
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Riyadh seeks short residency permits for foreigners

Labour minister wants shorter residency permits for foreigners who work in Gulf region to avoid pressure to grant them political rights.

Riyadh (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Ghazi al-Gosaibi, Saudi Arabia's labour minister since 2004, said that his government backs a proposal to impose residency limits on the millions of foreigners who work in the Gulf to prevent them from ever gaining a political voice in politics, either in the local municipalities or even the parliaments of the oil-rich region.

Saudi Arabia is a member of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC), an organisation that brings together six conservative Muslim states in the Persian Gulf region—foreign workers, mostly from South Asia, make up about 13 million or 37 per cent of the region’s overall population of 35 million people.

In an interview with Arabic language newspaper al-Eqtisadiah, the minister said that Saudi Arabia feared that international pressure would in the future force states in the region to enfranchise expatriate workers.

Residency limits would prevent such pressure but al-Gosaibi did not specify how long expatriate workers should be allowed to work.

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