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Saudi Arabia urges illegal workers to take advantage of amnesty | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Foreign laborers work at a construction site in the Saudi capital Riyadh on April 10, 2013. (AFP)

Foreign laborers work at a construction site in the Saudi capital Riyadh on April 10, 2013. (AFP)

Foreign laborers work at a construction site in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, on April 10, 2013. (AFP)

Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat—Saudi Arabia’s interior ministry has called on all illegal expatriate workers based in the kingdom to take advantage of the three-month grace period to adjust their immigration status.

The statement by the ministry stressed that after the expiry of the deadline, violators and their employers will be penalized.

Saudi Arabia announced last month that it would take new steps to crack down on foreigners working illegally in the kingdom, including jail terms for small business owners.

The Ministry of Labor is set to launch toll-free line for the public to report violations, while business owners will be able to check online whether they are violating the rules.

Last month, Saudi Arabia’s labor minister, Adel Al-Fakih, revealed in an interview with MBC television that approximately 200,000 foreigners had been deported in recent months and that 840,000 had left Saudi Arabia—most of them voluntarily—since a quota system for companies to hire local citizens was introduced in late 2011.

The ministry will also hire 1,000 more inspectors, who will be accompanied by policemen when checking businesses.

Companies will face penalties if they employ illegal migrants. “If an owner of a small enterprise conspires with an illegal foreign worker, he will be subject to sanctions,” Fakieh said. Possible punishments will include a SAR 100,000 (USD 26,700) fine for each illegal worker, two years in prison, or both.

In the next version of its labor quota system, which will be launched in the next three months, requirements to hire Saudi citizens in the retail sector will be increased, Fakieh said.

In early April, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz ordered that migrant workers breaking regulations be given a grace period of up to three months.

Fakieh said his ministry’s policies over the past 18 months had put some 600,000 Saudi citizens into private sector jobs, though he added that because of staff turnover, about 400,000 now remained employed in those jobs.