saudi threatens

Image: AFP

Government of Saudi Arabia  has warned illegal foreign workers that they may face  prison sentences and fines after a three-month grace period that ends  on July 3.

In a joint statement on Friday,the interior and labour ministries said that employers or those who shelter illegal workers will also be liable to up to two years in prison. Workers whose  work and residency permits have expired have been asked to to take advantage of the amnesty without penalty, including “special measures” that would allow a change of employer under certain conditions.

There are currently  eight million foreign workers in Saudi Arabia according to official figures, but it is speculated that there maybe another two million unregistered foreign workers in the country.

New regulations or ‘Nitaqat’ system introduced by the labour ministry aim to reduce the number of foreign workers to create jobs for millions of unemployed Saudis who make up a very small percentage of the work force.

Workers in low-paid jobs across the kingdom, mainly Yemenis and South Asians – Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis are expected to be  worst affected by the new regulations, agencies reported.

Immigration officials in Saudi say that nearly 201,000 illegal foreign workers were deported in the first 3 months of the year.