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Saudi Arabia exempts Syrian workers from labor permit regulations - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Foreign workers show their passports as they gather outside a Saudi immigration office on November 4, 2013, in downtown of Riyadh.(AFP PHOTO/FAYEZ NURELDINE)

Foreign workers show their passports as they gather outside a Saudi immigration office on November 4, 2013, in downtown of Riyadh.(AFP PHOTO/FAYEZ NURELDINE)

Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat—Saudi authorities announced on Monday that Syrian workers who had violated their labor permit conditions would be exempt from deportation.

Maj. Gen. Mansour Al-Turki, a spokesman for the interior ministry, said: “Current circumstances in Syria do not allow us to force Syrian violators to leave,” adding that they would be allowed to stay and rectify their visa statuses.

The Saudi government has been taking steps to regulate foreign workers in the Kingdom more closely, allowing workers a four-month grace period to correct their visa statuses or face deportation. That amnesty ended on Sunday.

The campaign has resulted in more than 3,800,000 workers acquiring work permits, 2,300,000 workers changing their employment, and 2,450,000 transferring to new employers.

Deputy Minister of Labor Mifrij Al-Haqbani said government projects would not be affected by the deportation of thousands of workers who violated their visa statuses. He added that “all companies which have contracts for government projects have been allocated the required visas to bring in replacement workers to carry out those projects.”

The deputy minister added that the only companies affected by the closer monitoring of foreign workers were those who hired illegal workers due to their low wage expectations.

He also denied that his ministry intends to search homes to check the visas of maids who may be working illegally.

He said the country has sent out leaflets in seven languages to make people aware of the issue and explaining the procedures to rectify visa violations. He added that the leaflets were also sent to recruitment agencies and to embassies.

Meanwhile, Turki announced the interior ministry has formed a security force affiliated to the Public Security Department, which starts operating in all cities on Tuesday. It will be tasked with arresting foreign workers who are self-employed or who work for employers other than their sponsor, those who arrived on Hajj or visit visas who have taken employment in the Kingdom, and those who have crossed the border without going through immigration.

The ministry has also leased buildings to hold the workers before deportation and has said penalties of two years’ imprisonment and up to SAR 100,000 (USD 27,000) will be issued to those who shelter foreign workers who have broken the law.