Saudi Arabia is ordering its 7,000 students in Canada to get out of the North American country after Canadian leaders criticized Saudi Arabia’s detention and arrest of human rights activists, according to a CNN report.
The students, who are on government scholarships, will be transferred to schools in other countries, according to Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Education. The ministry took to Twitter to announce that it is “an emergency plan” to help with the relocation.
Some of them may be headed to the United States. Jasser bin Sulaiman Al Harbash, a deputy minister of education, said in an interview on Saudi Arabia’s state-run television that the ministry “will be able to accommodate this number of students in excellent countries such as the U.S., U.K., Australia and New Zealand,” according to the CNN report.
Also as part of the international diplomatic imbroglio, Saudi Arabia expelled the Canadian ambassador on Sunday and declared a halt to all new business and investment transactions with Canada, accusing Canada of meddling. The moves came after Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s foreign affairs minister tweeted a defense of women’s rights and civil society advocates who have been arrested and jailed.
The Middle Eastern kingdom’s government-funded study abroad program has been shrinking in recent years. In 2017, Saudis made up only about 2 percent of Canada’s nearly 495,000 international students, according to the Canadian Bureau for International Education.
“Canada will always stand up for the protection of human rights, including women’s rights and freedom of expression around the world,” Freeland said. “We will never hesitate to promote these values and we believe that this dialogue is critical to international diplomacy.”
In a press conference Monday, Freeland said Saudi students are still welcomed in Canada and that it “would be a shame for those students if they were deprived of the opportunity to study here.”