Saudi Arabia sacks hundreds of Pakistani doctors, orders their deportation
Saudi Arabia has sacked hundreds of Pakistani doctors, giving them an ultimatum to leave the kingdom willingly or to be deported.
Pakistani newspaper Dawn reported on Wednesday that Saudi health authorities have ruled that medical degrees issued in the South Asian country are no longer acceptable.
"Your application for professional qualification has been rejected. Reason is that your master degree from Pakistan is not acceptable according to [Saudi health] regulations," reads a termination letter sent to the doctors.
According to the report, the Saudi health ministry believes the degree "lacks a structured training programme", rendering it useless in the kingdom.
Doctors said the surprise move has "caused them embarrassment" as the same programmes offered in India, Egypt, Sudan and Bangladesh were still acceptable.
The newspaper added that the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain have followed suit with the move and rejected the degree programme.
The oil-rich kingdom has long relied on foreign labour in all job sectors, but these positions are increasingly being reserved for Saudi workers.
The kingdom has been working to replace expatriate workers with Saudi nationals - a programme dubbed as the "Saudisation" of the country's workforce.
Saudisation is part of a major retooling of the kingdom's lagging oil economy, aimed at weaning citizens off the government's generous cradle-to-grave welfare system.
The policy, along with a hike in expat levies and fees for dependents, has triggered an exodus of foreign workers - who make up a third of the population.
Despite the mass departure of foreign workers, Saudi unemployment has reached its highest level in a decade at almosts 13 percent.
Saudisation has stirred heated debates on social media, with supporters of the policy demanding a fair chance to compete with non-Saudis while bitterly attacking online job postings that seek skilled workers from South Asia and elsewhere.