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Wednesday, 22 Jun 2022 7:38 PM MYT

RIYADH, June 22 —The ongoing demolition of dozens of neighbourhoods in the Saudi Red Sea city of Jeddah to enable redevelopment is violating human rights standards through forced evictions and a lack of compensation for foreign residents, Amnesty International said.

The redevelopment plan is part of Vision 2030 launched by de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to modernise Saudi Arabia’s economy and society, entailing rebuilding of old cities and erecting new ones from scratch.

More than half a million Jeddah residents are impacted by the demolition of over 60 neighbourhoods under the project, which began last October and has continued intermittently, Amnesty International said in a statement issued on Wednesday.

Saudi authorities announced in January a package of services, including provision of free housing, for Saudi nationals “whose homes are being dismantled in the slums and undeveloped neighbourhoods” of Jeddah.

Amnesty said the value of compensation was being set only after demolitions of buildings, and that the plan excluded foreign nationals who account for up to 47% of the residents affected in Jeddah, a major Red Sea port and commercial centre.

It added official Saudi documents showed residents have been given a notice period ranging from 24 hours in one neighbourhood to between one and six weeks in other districts.

“A Jeddah Municipality document shows that project plans were finalized almost three years ago, yet the Saudi authorities failed to engage in a process of genuine consultation with residents, provide adequate notice and announce the amount of compensation and provide it to residents prior to the demolitions,” Diana Semaan, acting deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, said in the statement.

She called on Riyadh to offer compensation to all those affected without discrimination and ensure no one is left homeless after eviction.

The Saudi government did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Amnesty’s statement.

Semaan added: “Beneath the progressive, glitzy image that Saudi Arabia is trying to present to the world lie horrid stories of abuses and violations. The world will not be fooled by sham fanfare.”

The kingdom, the world’s No. 1 oil exporter, has been pouring hundreds of billions of dollars into its economic transformation drive to open up the country and reduce its dependence on crude.

The reforms have been accompanied by a raft of arrests of political rivals, businessmen, clerics and rights activists during Prince Mohammed’s swift ascent, which critics have described as a power grab.

The Saudi government rejects this, saying it is fighting corruption and protecting national security. — Reuters