Amnesty extended in Saudi to prevent worker crisis

Hundreds of thousands of expatriate workers in Saudi Arabia have been given a last minute reprieve against threatened deportation. The move came hours before new laws were meant to come into place on 3 July.

Migrant worries in Saudi

Instead, the Saudi authorities have given the workers and their employers another four months, until 4 November, to get their paperwork and plans in order.Under new Saudi immigration laws, illegal workers can face deportation, fines and prison sentences.

Source of income

The ‘Nitaqat’ laws require Saudi employers to take on one Saudi national for every ten foreigners they employ. But about a third of the Gulf State’s population are migrant workers - and many of them are supporting large families back home. Their remittances are a crucial source of income in parts of India, Pakistan, Yemen, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and the Philippines. Up to 50,000 Pakistani workers are estimated to be at risk of being deported, according to The Economic Times.

Deportations in process

Saudi Arabia has already deported tens of thousands of illegal migrants this year, according to  The National. With unemployment running at 12 per cent in the state, King Abdullah is under pressure to crack down on the large black market in labour and to create more jobs for Saudis.

The National quotes a Pakistani receptionist who works for a Riyadh company as saying: “They might have deported me. This is the situation for so many of us. I was very worried. We didn’t know what would happen here on Wednesday [July 3, the end of the first amnesty period].”

Thousands of workers from Kerala will be hoping to regularise their residence and work status in Saudi before the November deadline, according to The Hindu.

The Financial Times has been covering the issue for several months, highlighting the way several Gulf States - feeling under pressure from the Arab Spring - are now trying to provide more employment for their own younger nationals. Kuwait, for instance, has plans in place to cut the numbers of migrants working within its borders by 100,000 a year.

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