Saudi Arabia clamps down illegal foreigners
Riyadh: Saudi authorities started a clampdown on illegal immigrants after the end of a reprieve that gave over stayers and workers a grace period to leave or legalize their status.
Police patrols have started searching for illegally-staying foreigners and those who help them.
Violators will be arrested, penalized and deported, according to the issued notice.
Nearly a million Pakistanis, Indians, Bangladeshis, Filipinos, Nepalis and Yemenis, among others, have taken advantage of the three-month amnesty – announced on April 3 and then extended for four months – and left the country.
Another roughly four million have legalized their situation by finding employers to sponsor them, a must to reside in most Gulf monarchies.
Foreigners desperate to work in the country were willing to pay for sponsorship, and sponsoring expatriates has become a lucrative business for some Saudis.
But under the new rules, workers can be employed only by their own sponsors, banning the practice of working independently or for non-sponsors.
Thirty Filipino workers who returned home on Monday alleged they were abused in the process of leaving.
“They treated us like animals,” said domestic helper Amor Roxas, 46, alleging that police placed them in crowded cells before they were taken to the airport.
“Our feet were chained,” said Yvonne Montefeo, 32.
Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter, is seen as a goldmine for millions of people from Asia and elsewhere in the Arab world, who find work as common laborers, drivers, porters and house maids.
Expatriates account for one-third, or around nine million, of the country’s 27-million-population.
Saudi Arabia has the Arab world’s largest economy, but the unemployment rate among natives is above 12.5 per cent, a figure the government is aiming to reduce.