Awaiting Arrest

JEDDAH, November 6, 2009 (AFP) – Larita Delacruz sits on the concrete base of a bridge pylon, rubs her swollen belly and explains her predicament: she is five months pregnant with twins, and wants to go home to give birth. But after four years of working as a maid in Saudi Arabia, she lacks both her passport and the crucial exit permit that would allow her to return to the Philippines.

So for three months Delacruz has lived on the pavement under a massive elevated eight-lane highway in central Jeddah, hoping to be rounded up by immigration police, then given documents and a ticket home.

Around her maybe 1,000 other Asian men and women sit in darkness under the flyover in the bustling Red Sea port. All have been trying for months to get deported.

In another area huddle hundreds of Africans, also seeking to leave.

Some fled abusive or non-paying employers, others were abandoned by sponsors, and still more came on pilgrimage to nearby Mecca but then stayed on to work illegally.

In each case, under Saudi rules for the millions of foreigners working in the kingdom, their documents were taken away on arrival. Without travel papers or an official exit permit, they cannot leave.

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