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Hamdan al-Aliyi

Saudi embassy closure ends lifeline for Yemenis

The relationship between Saudi Arabia and the Zaydi tribes has been testing [Anadolu]

Date of publication: 18 February, 2015

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Thousands of pilgrims and workers in limbo after the Saudi embassy closed its doors in response to the Houthi takeover of Sanaa.

The closure of the Saudi embassy in Sanaa has hit Yemenis working in Saudi Arabia and those preparing to travel.

The Saudi embassy was closed on 13 February, the first Arab country to suspend diplomatic relations with Yemen since the Houthi takeover. The US and UK have also withdrawn their staff, citing instability and violence.

Riyadh has a fraught relationship with the Houthis, and fought an isolated border war with the mainly Zaydi Shia group in 2009.

The Saudi embassy closure means that thousands of Yemenis waiting to travel to Saudi Arabia are now in limbo, with about 400 travellers without passports, which have been locked inside the embassy.

Yemenis waiting for visas to work in Saudi Arabia have also been affected.

Osama Ali told al-Araby al-Jadeed of his frustration about his visa application was suspended as it neared completion, saying he feared his sponsor in Saudi Arabia would look for another employee if the embassy remains closed.

That is a prospect many waiting to work in Saudi Arabia now face, and could have a long-term effect on the amount of money expatriates send back to their home country - a vital revenue for Saudi Arabia's southern neighbour.

Yemeni remittances have traditionally helped shore up the country's economy. According to the UN, about $1.4bn is sent from Saudi Arabia to Yemen each year - about 4.3 percent of Yemen's GDP.

Waiting in vain?

     Around 400 Yemeni passports are allegedly held inside the embassy

Saudi Arabia is also the destination for thousands of Muslim pilgrims for haj or umra. Travel agencies say that most consular work has been passed on to the general consulate in the more stable southern city of Aden since the Sanaa embassy closed.

However, the travel agencies have complained that the consulate is processing only 150 passports a day. 

Mohammad al-Shabibi, from Yemen's ministry of endowments, said that the embassy closure would result in losses for travel agencies, as they have already made bookings for hotel rooms for the pilgrims.

This is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.

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