Authorities said 65,715 of the detainees had already been deported to their home countries, Saudi Gazette reported.(AFP File Photo)
Saudi Arabian authorities have arrested 337,281 foreigners, most of them without residence or work permits, as part of a nationwide crackdown against violators of the kingdom’s residency and labour regulations.
The campaign, which began on November 15, resulted in the arrest of 198,231 foreigners who did not have valid residence permits and 99,980 without valid work permits, Gulf News reported on Thursday.
Authorities said 65,715 of the detainees had already been deported to their home countries, Saudi Gazette reported.
The nationalities of all the people detained and deported could not immediately be ascertained. Saudi Arabia is home to 3.2 million Indians, the largest expatriate community in the kingdom.
Illegal expatriates had been warned last year that they would have to pay fines ranging from 15,000 riyals to 100,000 riyals if they failed to regularise their stay or leave the country within a 90-day amnesty.
Saudi authorities announced the amnesty in March last year to tackle the negative economic and social ramifications and risks from the growing number of foreigners who preferred to stay in the country even after the expiry of their documents. Those who left during the grace period did not have to pay paying fines or face legal measures.
The crackdown, part of the “Nation Without Illegal Expats campaign launched by the Interior Ministry in 2017, began in several cities after the end of the grace period.
A total of 4,432 people were held while sneaking into Saudi Arabia through the southern border. About 75% of them were Yemeni nationals and 23% Ethiopians.
Officials told the Saudi Gazetta that 15,250 expatriates, including 12,781 men and 2,469 women, were being held at detention centers while awaiting deportation.
A total of 47,474 expatriates were “immediately punished”, including 43,457 detainees without travel documents who were referred to their embassies and consulates and another 49,703 were awaiting flight bookings.