Palestinians appeal to Saudis to hire unemployed laborers

Friday, March 12, 2004

GAZA CITY The Palestinian Authority has approached Saudi Arabia to employ excess labor in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

PA officials said ministers have seen Saudi Arabia as the most likely candidate to absorb thousands of employed Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. They said appeals to other countries, particularly to other Gulf Cooperation Council states, have been ignored.

The PA has held talks with Saudi Arabia over the absorption of Palestinian laborers amid increased security restrictions by Israel. Israel, which once provided jobs for 150,000 Palestinians, now employs about 20,000, Middle East Newsline reported.

The PA reported that 35 percent of Palestinians are unemployed and that 60 percent live below the poverty line. The PA said the number of legal Palestinians who work in Israel do not exceed 10,000.

In mid-January, PA Labor Minister Ghassan Khatib held talks with his Saudi counterpart, Ali Al Namlah, regarding the export of Palestinian labor to the kingdom. Khatib was said to have urged Al Namlah to offer work to skilled Palestinian laborer and bypass recruitment agencies in the PA.

Palestinians have complained that such agencies impose exorbitant charges to process visas.

For his part, Al Namlah said the kingdom could grant preference to the Saudi employment of Palestinian technicians and professionals.

Officials said the PA hopes to capitalize on the flight of Western nationals from Saudi Arabia in wake of Al Qaida suicide attacks in the kingdom over the last year. Saudi Arabia has sought to replace Westerners in a range of services, including banking, education, health and engineering. Saudi Arabia has not yet agreed to the PA request, officials said. But they said visas for Palestinians who seek jobs in Saudi Arabia could be processed through the Saudi embassies in Egypt and Jordan.

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