Saudi Arabia’s illegal expat exodus set to start
By Courtney Trenwith
Thursday, 16 May 2013 12:34 PM
Asian laborers work at a flyover construction site in eastern Riyadh. Saudi Arabia gave illegal foreign workers a three-month grace period to legalize their status. (AFP/Getty Images – for illustrative purposes only)
An exodus of illegal expats in Saudi Arabia is expected to begin on Saturday as part of the kingdom’s amnesty aimed at ridding it of black market workers, according to local media.
Saudi Arabia has given illegal foreign workers a three-month grace period to legalize their status, after panic over reported mass deportations.
Expats, mostly from Asian nations, who do not have proper travel documents will be able to receive them from their respective consulate without fear of prosecution.
Passport authorities have agreed to accept the documents and allow the illegal expats to leave the country.
Their biometric data also will be recorded. It is not known what the information will be used for.
Illegal workers also can apply to have their status legalised and remain in the country.
The process is part of the kingdom’s Nitaqat system, which aims to increase employment among nationals.
It has been estimated that remittances earned by illegal workers cost Saudi Arabia 10 percent of its GDP during the decade to 2002.
Expatriates who operated illegal businesses in the kingdom remitted SR635.7bn ($169.5bn) to their home countries between 1992 and 2002, Saudi economist Professor Abdul Aziz Diyab said, according to local daily Arab News.
The figure is likely to now be higher, with the number of illegal workers increasing since 2000.
Diyab estimates the earnings of illegal workers grew to SR4bn in 2009.