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Saudi officials: No leniency for illegal workers after Nov. 3

September 11, 2013 2:26pm
Saudi officials on Wednesday reminded illegal workers, including Filipinos, that there will be no more leniency for them once the grace period for them to correct their status lapses on November 3.

The Saudi labor and interior ministries issued the reminder to illegal expatriate workers with the deadline less than two months away.

“Punishment will be imposed on violators, including expats and their employers, in accordance with the law. We will not show any leniency for violators,” the two ministries said as reported on Saudi news site Arab News.

A Reuters report said expatriates account for around a third of the population in Saudi, the world's top oil exporter, and for decades the authorities have turned a blind eye to visa irregularities to give Saudi companies a ready stream of cheap imported labor.

Countries with large numbers of undocumented workers include the Philippines, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Egypt, Nepal and Yemen, the Arab News said.

Last July, Saudi King Abdullah extended the grace period for illegal workers to correct their status, following calls from foreign embassies and employers.

The extension also stemmed from proposals by the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Labor and Interior.

However, the Arab News report said the decree that announced the extension also warned of a crackdown on illegal workers once the amnesty ends.

"Hundreds of thousands of undocumented expatriate workers, including overstaying pilgrims and runaway workers who escaped from their employers, have rectified their status since the government announced the three-month grace period," the report said.

The crackdown against illegal workers, which led to thousands of arrests and deportations, started on March 28 because of the “Saudization” policy, which encourages the employment of Saudi nationals in private firms.

Saudi is host to the biggest population of overseas Filipino workers —about 1.5 million—many of whom are nurses, engineers, architects, and domestic workers.  — KBK, GMA News
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