3.87m illegal foreigners netted, 962,234 deported in 22 months

As many as 3,024,270 expatriates were arrested for violating residency regulations; 595,796 for violating the labor law and 252,128 for breaching border security. — Okaz photo

Saudi Gazette report

Saudi authorities have arrested about 3.87 million foreigners who were living in the country in violation of the labor and residency regulations and deported 962,234 of them to their respective countries since November 2017, Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said quoting interior ministry officials.

The interior ministry launched a nationwide crackdown against illegal residents on Nov. 15, 2017, with the participation of 19 government departments including the Directorate General of Passports (Jawazat) and the Ministry of Labor and Social Development.

The campaign officials said as many as 3,872,194 expatriates were arrested for violating the residency, labor and border security regulations.

They said 962,234 of the detained residents were deported to their respective home countries.

A total of 3,024,270 expatriates were arrested for violating residency regulations, 595,796 for violating the labor law and 252,128 for breaching border security.

The officials said a total of 65,679 people were apprehended while attempting to sneak into the Kingdom through its southern borders. About 45 percent of the infiltrators were Yemenis, 52 percent Ethiopians and the rest (3 percent) constituted people of various nationalities.

The officials also said 2,785 people were caught while attempting to leave the Kingdom illegally.

According to the campaign officials, as many as 4,522 people, including 1,587 Saudi nationals, were arrested for providing transportation and accommodation to illegal residents.

They said 1,555 Saudis detained for sheltering illegals were questioned, punished and released while 32 others were still being investigated.

A total of 14,979 expatriates are undergoing punitive measures at present, in line with the regulations. Of these, 13,097 are men and 1,882 are women.

On the spot penalties were imposed on 539,059 violators. A total of 492,927 expatriates were referred to their concerned embassies and consulates to issue them travel documents while 645,114 were waiting for flight bookings to leave the country and 962,234 were deported.

The security clampdown to flush out all illegal expatriates from Saudi Arabia seems to have achieved its objectives with the coordinated efforts of various security agencies.

The interior ministry launched the Nation Without Illegal Expats campaign on March 29, 2017, with an initial 90-day grace period for all visa overstayers and violators of residency and labor laws to leave the country without incurring any penalties.

Due to the huge rush of undocumented workers wishing to leave the Kingdom taking advantage of the general amnesty, which allowed them to return to the Kingdom later on legal work visas, the grace period was extended a number of times until it finally ended on Nov. 15, 2017.

The Passport Department and several foreign diplomatic missions opened facilitation centers in various parts of the country to help expatriates wishing to leave the Kingdom on their own to complete the procedures.

Saudi authorities estimated that more than 750,000 people belonging to 140 nationalities had benefited from the amnesty when the grace period finally ended. But hundreds of thousands of others remained in the Kingdom, either determined to stay back heedless of the consequences or unable to avail themselves of the amnesty offer.