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Raids begin as Saudi Arabia’s amnesty period for illegal workers ends

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Saudi Arabia’s seven-month grace period to correct the labor and residency status of foreigners ended on Sunday and an all-out security inspection campaign will start on Monday, spokesman of the Ministry of Interior, Maj. Gen. Mansour al-Turki, announced.

The campaign will continue throughout the year and there is no time limit set for it, he said.

Addressing a joint press conference with the Ministry of Labor officials at the Officers’ Club of the Internal Security Forces in Riyadh on Sunday evening, Turki said that the raids will cover all cities, towns, regions and villages as well as highways across the kingdom.

“All expatriates who work for their personal gain or overstayed their hajj, umrah, and visit visas and infiltrators will be caught and will be detained until completing legal procedures for penal measures and deportation. The campaign also aims at catching Saudis who employ illegal residents or those who leave their workers to find job on their own.

“Those who cover up illegals or those who give them shelter or transportation or any kind of help will also be apprehended,” he said, adding that those who recruited foreigners and then did not report their overstay will also face penal action.

Turki reiterated that the inspection raids will be strict and continuous.

“All the branches of the Public Security will shoulder the responsibility of catching the violators and handing them over to detention centers, which will be under the supervision of the General Prisons Directors. A force for apprehending violators has been set up under the Public Security to carry out the mission,” he said.

Turki said that his ministry, in coordination with the Ministry of Labor, has readied the concerned security agencies to carry out the inspection raids effectively. Referring to the Syrian illegals, he said that penal action will be taken against them; they will be treated the same as other nationalities.

However, there will be a humanitarian consideration in their case, he added.

The press conference was also attended by Deputy Ministers of Labor Muferrej al-Haqbani and Abdullah Abuthnain, Maj. Gen. Jamaan al-Ghamdi, Assistant Director of Public Security, and Lt. Col. Ahmed al-Laheedan, representative of the Passports Directorate.

Ghamdi said that inspection raids will be carried out by specialized teams.

“Secret teams will monitor the location prior to carrying out inspection by the concerned agencies,” he said.

The Ministry of Labor on Sunday allayed fears expressed by many expatriates of a possible heavy handedness during the inspection raids due to begin on Monday, saying that inspectors have been strictly ordered and trained to behave in a civilized manner.

Abuthnain said that there won’t be any offensive conduct by inspection teams. “The inspection campaign will be carried out in cooperation and coordination with the concerned security authorities, and it will be based on decent and civilized behavior. The inspectors have been directed to perform their mission in a professional way and not to do anything that might hurt the feelings of workers and their employers or damage the reputation of institutions,” he said.

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on Nov. 4, 2013.