Saudi Gazette | Do not encourage Ethiopia-phobia

(By: Mahmoud Ahmed)

The recent phenomenon of Ethiopia bashing in our country’s media is turning a wee bit malicious. I was surprised at the recent media campaign against Ethiopian nationals, who have been singularly targeted by the media for all the ails afflicting the country.

According to many media reports the Ethiopian nationals are the main source of all problems. They are the ones breaking into homes, manufacturing and distributing liquor, selling weapons, involved in assault and rape cases and many other things that cause discomfort to citizens and residents alike.

The campaign, which virtually alleges that most Ethiopians are in the Kingdom illegally, is in many ways just vilifying one particular section of humankind. The campaign, as if the problem of sneaking these illegals through the border happened only two weeks ago, is also unjustified.

First of all I would like to clear one thing. Any person sneaking through the border illegally should be arrested and deported; it is within the country’s right to do so and I want to make it clear that no one is questioning the action of the government if these illegals are arrested.

But ironically the border, which is manned vigilantly by our security forces, is made porous by greedy citizens or residents, out to make a quick buck for themselves. If these people had the moral courage to battle this scourge, then the security forces job would become much easier.

All nationalities living in the Kingdom legally are positive contributors to society. Ethiopians, like any other nationality living in the Kingdom legally, too are contributing positively to our society even in a small level. They hold jobs in the private sector and contribute to the country’s development and are thanked for that.

Associating the legal Ethiopian expatriates with the infiltrators is wrong, (… and no bearer of burdens will bear the burden of another) Az-Zumar Chapter, Verse (7).

Be it any nationality, the moment they take the step to illegally enter the Kingdom they have already done wrong. From then on they are ready to take any steps that would rake in the money. Ironically, every nationality is involved in wrongdoing, so why single out the Ethiopians!

Social media and the media in general have portrayed Ethiopians as a major problem that needs to be gotten rid of. This is wrong. To tar all of a nationality with the same brush for the actions of few is wrong. And media should be careful when dealing with such issues.

I remember some time back it was the Bangladeshis who were under heavy media attack and before that the Chadians. All were under the scrutiny because a select few went about their way in making money any which way. I hope the media would target the problem itself without highlighting on the nationality because the problem will remain a big problem even if one nationality is driven out and other nationalities let in.

The problem of infiltrators crossing the borders every day has been a problem since the establishment of this country. It is extremely difficult to monitor the entire border of the country. The border along the south is long and there are difficult mountains and valleys. It is here the citizens and residents could help by not assisting the infiltrators. The border guards are doing their best to monitor the border with Yemen and our sea border to prevent illegals from sneaking in.

Every now and then the media office of the border guards releases statistics about their latest busts in which they seize large number of weapons, ammunition, drugs and liquor and not to mention the arrest of the smugglers themselves. Despite these successes, the illegals device new ways to break through the borders of our country.

The campaign targeted the Ethiopians, but did not raise the problem of illegal residents in the south. The numbers are reportedly astounding. For a problem to become a big problem it needs to start as a small problem first. The small problem if neglected and not solved immediately will then grow bigger and bigger until it reaches the stage of a massive problem that will start to threaten our society.

Now if these illegal ‘Ethiopians’ sneaking through the border are now a big problem, as the campaign suggests, then I wonder why this situation was not solved from the beginning. How did they occupy these mountains and find residence and jobs without getting noticed by authorities?

America itself could not control the southern borders with Mexico and every year thousands and thousands of Mexicans cross the border despite the wall, barbwire and state-of-the-art equipment to monitor the border. In addition there is a reported surge in patrolling at various points of the border.

The only thing the Kingdom can take comfort is that they can learn from the Americans the latest methods in controlling border crossing and adopt the latest surveillance machines to curb this menace.

Residents in Asir area expressed their concern about the problem of illegals living in the mountains. They claim that the illegals have turned the mountain areas as a base for their negative activities. The mountains were being used to distill contraband liquor and also establish liquor factories and the illegals are using sewage water to manufacture liquor.

The residents claimed that the illegals are selling machine guns smuggled from Yemen to people, which is a huge security concern if it fell into the wrong hands. There are also talks about illegals breaking into homes and shops and terrorizing people.

One man in a special TV program commented on this issue saying that police cannot go and even chase them to the mountain because these illegals are invariably heavily armed. He added that this has limited police patrol and their presence to the main road.

Invariably there are reports that some Saudi nationals were smuggling them to other parts in the Kingdom. This report really saddened me, especially crimes being committed by the people living in the land of the two holy mosques.

Such problems do exist in main cities and many crimes are committed by other nationalities. But there is no such sustained campaign against them. Crime has no nationality and crimes will be committed by any other nationality. I remember how the entire world saw us after 9/11 tragedy. We were upset when we were branded as terrorists for the actions of a few.

My advice to the media, who are ready to jump on a virulent campaign, is to take a step back and consider first the problem and then offer a solution, instead of blindly chasing or tilting at the wind. We should not apply the principle of collective guilt on any nationality, as we were subjected to.

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Source: Saudi Gazette – March 11, 2013

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