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Saudi Arabia To Intensify Crackdown On Illegal Workers

Saudi expats apprehensive over new labour law

"We will continue to issue visas for others but those who want to come to this country have to respect the law," says Saudi's labour minister.

April 18, 2013 10:50 by



Saudi Arabia will take new steps, including jail terms for small business owners and the hiring of 1,000 inspectors, to crack down on foreigners working illegally in the world’s top oil exporter, Labour Minister Adel al-Fakieh said.

“We have and will continue to have millions of foreign workers. We have 7.5 million legal foreign workers and we need them,” Fakieh told Saudi-owned MBC television this week, according to a transcript posted on the MBC website.

“We will continue to issue visas for others but those who want to come to this country have to respect the law.”

Saudi Arabia has been deporting hundreds of thousands of illegal foreign workers as part of labourmarket reforms designed to reduce unemployment among its own citizens, which is officially estimated at 12.0 percent.

If it persists, the crackdown could have major effects on the Saudi economy, which has for decades relied heavily on foreigners from south and southeast Asia as well as Arab countries in its energy, construction and services industries.

In addition to legal foreign workers, analysts have estimated the number of illegals at 1 or 2 million, conceivably more. The governments of Yemen and India’s state of Kerala have expressed concern about a sudden influx of returning workers because of the Saudi crackdown.

Fakieh said about 200,000 foreigners had been deported in recent months, and that 840,000 had leftSaudi Arabia – most of them voluntarily – since a quota system for companies to hire local citizens was introduced in late 2011.

As a part of new measures to be implemented from next month, the ministry will set up a toll-free line for the public to report violations, he said. Business owners will be able to check online whether they violate the rules.

The ministry will hire 1,000 more inspectors who will be accompanied by policemen when checking businesses, and firms will face penalties if they harbour illegals, Fakieh added.

“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 100,000 riyal ($26,700) fine for each illegal worker, two years in prison or both.



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