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Saudi King gives foreigners ‘more time’
More than 200,000 foreigners have been deported from the country over the past few months
April 7, 2013 10:09 by Reuters
Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah on Saturday ordered a three-month delay to a crackdown on migrant workers which has led to thousands of deportations, to give foreigners in the kingdom a chance to sort out their papers.
The world’s top oil exporter has more than nine million expatriates whose remittances home provide important revenue for countries including Yemen, India, Pakistan and the Philippines.
“King Abdullah directed both the Interior Ministry and the Labour Ministry to give an opportunity to workers in breach of the labour and residency regulations in the kingdom to clarify their status in a period not exceeding three months,” said a statement carried on official media.
More than 200,000 foreigners have been deported from the country over the past few months, a passports department official said in comments reported by al-Hayat daily this week.
The crackdown is part of labour market reforms aimed at putting more Saudi nationals into private sector jobs, where they now make up only a tenth of the workforce. The most recent central bank statistics, for 2011, showed nine in 10 working Saudis were employed by the public sector.
The Middle East’s largest economy grew by 6.8 percent last year, but regards low employment among nationals as a long-term strategic challenge, a view given added impetus after joblessness in nearby countries contributed to revolutions.
“The Labour Ministry does inspections inside the enterprises to make sure there are no violations to the labour system … We will continue our work to make sure labour system regulations are applied,”Labour Ministry spokesman Hattab al-Enazi told Reuters on Saturday before the king’s announcement.
Under Saudi law, expatriates have to be sponsored by their employer, but many switch jobs without transferring their residency papers.
That has allowed companies to dodge strict Labour Ministry quotas regulating the number of Saudis and expatriates each firm can employ by booking their foreign workers under a different sponsor. Companies with too few Saudi employees face fines.
It has also led to the emergence of a labour black market in which sponsors illegally charge expatriates to renew their residence documents when they in fact work for somebody else.
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