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Saudi police drag stranded Egyptian who threatened 'repatriation riots' amid coronavirus pandemic

The man was visibly distressed [Twitter]

Date of publication: 9 May, 2020

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Saudi police this week were filmed dragging a visibly distressed Egyptian man stranded in the kingdom amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
An Egyptian man stranded in Saudi Arabia was arrested by security forces after threatening to protest in front of his country's embassy following weeks of failed attempts to return home.

The young Egyptian national has for weeks demanded to be repatriated to his native country amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, to no avail.

A video that surfaced online showed the man being dragged by his feet by security forces while clearly in distress.

"I swear to God, I didn't mean it," he repeats while crying on the floor.

In earlier videos, which he posted online, the man threatened to replicate demonstrations by Egyptians that took place in Kuwait earlier this month, also calling for repatriation.

"If this doesn't take place, we will go to the embassy. What happened in Kuwait will also happen here in Saudi Arabia," he said, warning it may even escalate further in the kingdom.

Just days earlier, police in Kuwait dispersed what they described as a riot by stranded Egyptians unable to return home amid the coronavirus pandemic, authorities said, the first reported sign of unrest from the region's vast population of foreign workers who have lost their jobs over the crisis.

Online videos purported to show Kuwaiti police firing tear gas at the demonstrators overnight, who earlier chanted: "Where is our embassy?"

The state-run KUNA news agency called the confrontation a "riot" carried out by Egyptians corralled at a group shelter.

"Security officials intervened and took control, arresting a number of them" the KUNA report said.

It did not acknowledge what level of force police used to put down the unrest, nor how many people authorities ultimately arrested after the incident. Kuwait's Information Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Videos purported to show the Egyptians in a shelter, armed with pieces of furniture at one point of the confrontation. The shelter appeared to be in an industrial setting, surrounded by a chain-link fence topped with barbed wire.

Egyptian media later reported two EgyptAir flights had been sent to repatriate citizens from Kuwait.

Read also: 'Use prisoners' as medical lab rats, Saudi actress suggests amid coronavirus epidemic

Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, like many of the oil-rich Gulf Arab states, rely on a vast population of foreign workers for jobs ranging from domestic help, construction work to white-collar work.

Long a lifeline for families back home, those migrant workers now find themselves trapped by the coronavirus pandemic, losing jobs, running out of money and desperate to return to their home countries as Covid-19 stalks their labour camps.

Some 35 million labourers work in the six Arab Gulf states of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, as well as in Jordan and Lebanon, according to UN figures.

Foreigners far outnumber locals in the Gulf states, accounting for over 80 percent of the population in some countries.

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