Saudi Arabia has launched a clampdown on illegal workers in a bid to create more jobs for its citizens, Bloomberg reported on Thursday, adding that a quarter of nationals aged between 20 and 30 are unemployed.
Local inspectors have raided places where suspected illegal workers could be employed, enforcing existing labor laws, the news agency reported, citing Labor Ministry spokesman Hattab al-Enazi.
Authorities have deported nearly 800,000 illegal workers in the past 15 months, Bader al-Malik, spokesman for the General Department of Passports in Riyadh, told local newspapers.
Some 200,000 illegal workers were deported in the first three months of this year, Malik told al-Hayat newspaper.
Raids earlier in the week resulted in a number of schools being closed, as expatriate teachers feared their papers were not in order.
Some 2,000 teachers in various schools need to address their work statuses, reported the Saudi-based al-Hayat newspaper.
Social media users said a number of work places were empty earlier in the week, with employees fearing deportation.
Saudi Arabia has 9.4 million expatriate workers, mainly from Egypt, Yemen, the Philippines, India and Pakistan, Bloomberg reported, citing the Central Department of Statistics. Foreign workers often enter the kingdom under the sponsorship of a Saudi national, but then change jobs to work for another person while retaining the same visa.
The Yemeni government has expressed concern over the crackdown. Protests took place outside the Saudi embassy in Yemen after thousands of Yemeni workers were arrested and deported, the BBC reported.
However, government sources in the Philippines said none of their citizens in Saudi Arabia have been affected by the crackdown so far, al-Hayat added.
King Abdullah announced in 2011 a plan worth $130 billion to create jobs for Saudi nationals and tighten rules on hiring expatriate workers.
The government has restricted the number of permits issued to expatriates, linking their presence to the number of Saudi employees hired in a company, Bloomberg reported.