Dangerous neighborhood

Expat singles make up 80% of residents in crowded Hail district


Okaz/Saudi Gazette

EXPATRIATE residents dominate the demographic makeup of many crowded neighborhoods in major cities of the Kingdom. A mix of various nationalities, they tend to live in dilapidated buildings with faulty electrical wiring, posing a potential safety hazard to themselves as well as their neighbors.

One such neighborhood is Al-Aziziyah in Hail, where 80 percent of the residents are expatriate singles.

Saudi residents of the neighborhood have complained to the authorities repeatedly about the recurring incidents of fire caused by carelessness and poor building maintenance.

The residents also said they were concerned about the grave consequences of possible fights between expatriate workers of different nationalities, who live and move around in groups. They pointed out that it would be very difficult to contain such fights in light of the poor security presence in the neighborhood.

Breakan Al-Shrihi says expatriate workers park trucks and other vehicles blocking off streets and causing traffic chaos.

"The Traffic Department issued an order last year banning truck drivers from parking in the neighborhood. Everyone followed the order for a year and then they started ignoring it. They park their trucks in the narrow alleys of the neighborhood amid negligence by the law enforcement authorities," he said.

The neighborhood is strategically located in the center of Hail city and close to the commercial area. It is supposed to have full services. On the contrary, it is an unplanned district where the sewage system constantly overflows, filling the streets with waste material. On top of that, expatriate workers have moved in abundance to the neighborhood, causing concerns to many Saudi residents. Saudis tend not to rent apartments in buildings where expatriate tenants are dominant.

Muhammad Al-Tibanawee says many Saudi residents have moved out of the neighborhood because of the concentration of expatriate workers.

"I am not moving out just because I cannot afford an apartment in a safer neighborhood. We suffer because of the poor services and the large number of expatriate workers in the area. Some of the houses could collapse any moment, posing a real danger to people living around them. We have lodged several complaints with the authorities but none has been responded to so far. The streets are filled with sewage and a bad smell permeates the neighborhood," he said.

Al-Tibanawee wonders why work on the sewage network stopped three years ago and never resumed. "We have at least 12 incidents of sewer overflows every month and we regularly pay money to truck drivers to remove the waste. Not all people, especially widows, can afford this," he said.

Rajeh Al-Masood said some expatriate workers living in the area were jobless and tended to roam the streets at night.

"We do not let our children go out at night because we are worried about their safety. We want the authorities to take action and find a way to restore normalcy. I am sure that all Saudi residents want expatriate workers out of the neighborhood so the residents can feel safe at night," he said.

Many expatriate workers cram into small houses that are located close to the houses of Saudis.

Azmeer Khan, a Pakistani who lives in the neighborhood, said he had been living in the area for 12 years and paid SR10,000 in annual rent. He lives with 18 other people.

"We go out early in the morning and come back in the evening. When there is no work, we sit out on the doorstep of the house. We have never caused harm or disturbances to any of the residents who we all respect," he said.

A Traffic Department spokesman has said traffic regulations do not ban anyone from parking near their house.