Why do Saudis become emigrants?


By: Agal Al-Agal

There are many reasons why people emigrate leaving their homeland to go to live in another country. Some run away from political persecution while others leave for religious reasons. However, most emigrants are motivated by economic reasons and want to improve their living conditions. A country like Saudi Arabia attracts millions of expatriates who come here searching for better job opportunities.

However, I have recently read a statistics report on the number of Saudi citizens who have emigrated or applied for immigration to advanced Western countries, and I was astounded by the figures.

The report, which was issued by the US Department of Homeland Security, said that the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) processed 11,700 immigration applications filed by Saudis between 2001 and 2010. This is a shocking figure and the Kingdom’s authorities should investigate the reasons for it. Let me be clear, I am not talking about brain drain immigration, I am talking about the failure of the authorities to create job opportunities for Saudis who have studied abroad and returned to the Kingdom to work.

I am talking about the difficulties some Saudis, who are searching for work, find in the market because of wasta. Some expatriate executives who hold interviews with these Saudis tend to drive them away and not give them the job. Those who do get hired end up getting marginalized and hating the job.

I do not believe that Saudis emigrate to Western countries because they are necessarily impressed by those countries. It is not about that. I have met many Saudis who brag about the fact that their children have American citizenship. For them, American citizenship is like a prop they can lean on when conditions change in their own country. They can always go to the United States. They can also travel anywhere in the world with an American passport.

Who of us has not heard about Saudi businessmen who have become dual citizens of their own country and of a foreign country, thanks to their money. We should not blame Saudis who want to emigrate; we should instead consider the matter seriously and explore the reasons for it. Why are these Saudis not loyal to their country? How do they view their future?

Some Saudi emigrants may believe that by leaving the Kingdom, they are helping to reduce the unemployment rate, although this is not true. However, I think it is more than that. It is about citizenship rights and social justice. There are a small number of people who monopolize the nation’s privileges and enjoy its prosperous economic conditions. Our laws should apply to everyone without exception and with full transparency.

A Saudi friend of mine has lived in the United States for the last 30 years. He came from a poor family, but today, he is a successful businessman who owns a private aviation company. He is also an active member of the Democratic Party. I met him in Riyadh two years ago. He wanted to start a domestic airlines company in the Kingdom but did not receive any cooperation from the concerned authorities. Before leaving for the US, he told me: “Things have not changed here for the last 30 years. You still need to be well-connected to start any project. That’s why some Saudis emigrate from their country.”

We all know that some Saudis also go to live in nearby Gulf countries where they start their own businesses. Why do they do that? Is it because these countries have more freedom?





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