Close to 3 million foreigners arrested as Saudi clamps down on illegal workers

A total of 750,504 expatriates have been deported to their respective countries since the crackdown began in November 2017

Saudi authorities have arrested close to three million foreigners for violating labour and residency regulations in the kingdom, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.

The kingdom has been detaining people for residential, labour and border security regulations since November 2017 with 19 government departments participating in the campaign.

So far, a total of 2,987,317 people have been arrested, including over 2.3 million for breaking residency regulations, 458,591 for flouting labour laws and 200,695 for border violations.

Up to 50,388 people were apprehended while attempting to illegally enter the kingdom’s borders. About 49 per cent of them were Yemenis, 48 per cent were Ethiopians and the rest constituted people of various nationalities.

Officials also arrested 3,697 people, for their involvement in the transfer, accommodation and concealment of those who violated the law, including 1,227 Saudi nationals. While 1,177 Saudis who were detained have been questioned, punished and released, 50 are still being investigated.

Among those arrested, immediate sanctions have been imposed against 443,210 violators; 405,806 have transferred to their respective diplomatic missions to obtain travel documents; and 507,042 are waiting to complete their travel reservations.

Officials said 11,813 illegal expatriates were being held in various detention centres in the kingdom, including 9,818 men and 1,995 women.

A total of 750,504 expatriates have been deported to their respective countries since November 2017.

Saudi’s crackdown is taking place amid a wider exodus of legal foreign workers.

The number of expatriates working in the kingdom reduced by close to 3 per cent in the third quarter of 2018, compared to the previous quarter, according to official data released in January.

Research by the General Statistics Authority (GASTA) found that the number of employed expatriates fell from over 9.8 million in the second quarter to over 9.5 million in Q3. That’s down from 10.18 million in the first quarter.

Read more: Saudi expat workforce shrinks in Q3 as local unemployment rate drops