The Ministry of Labor has ruled out an extension of the amnesty period and warned illegal workers and Saudi employers that countrywide raids would start on Nov. 4.
Hattab Al-Enezi, the ministry’s spokesman, rejected on Thursday reports carried by some channels and websites that the Saudi government would grant illegal workers more time. He said the reports were “misleading and false.”
“Reports published on some social networking websites and channels about the possibility of another extension for illegals to correct their status, are not true. The amnesty deadline ends on Sunday and government agencies will swing into action the following day,” said Al-Enezi in a statement.
“The inspection of commercial premises will begin on Monday as planned. Various arms of the ministry are ready for the inspections. The government agencies, however, will not arrest those holding relevant documents and waiting to legalize their status or be repatriated.”
The Foreign Ministry has forwarded appeals for an extension by some countries to the Labor and Interior Ministries, a diplomatic source said.
Sibi George, charge d’affaires at the Indian Embassy, said: “The ministry has assured us that it would not arrest illegals who have started the process of legalization, or exit procedures, before Nov. 3.” He said the ministry had warned it would not be lenient with offenders.
Illegal workers face two years in jail and fines of up to SR100,000. Saudis will be punished for harboring illegal workers, including those overstaying their Umrah and Haj visas. A task force has been established to target pharmacies, barbershops, restaurants, security guards and drivers.
More than 4 million foreign nationals in Saudi Arabia have rectified their labor and residency status during the amnesty period, while around 1 million illegal workers have left the Kingdom. The seven-month grace period has benefited nearly half of all overseas residents living in the Kingdom, said George.
The original three-month deadline for the amnesty, announced by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah in April, was extended from July after it became evident that thousands of applications would not be processed in time as authorities struggled to keep up with the demand.
“There are still many expatriates who have been unable to legalize their status,” said Abdul Ghafar Dimalutang, vice president of the Overseas Filipino Workers organization.
The fate of nearly half of the 1 million Syrians is uncertain. Saudi Arabia is home to the world’s largest Syrian population. According to local media, 40 percent of Syrians in the Kingdom have not legalized their status but cannot return to Syria because of the conflict.
Hundreds of expatriates are still trying to sort out their paperwork at Jeddah’s labor office. Many complained about the overcrowding and lack of staff to deal with their applications.
Abdul Rahman Al-Faqih, a worker, said the application process was complex and confusing: “I applied for a new passport and to correct the status of our housemaid, but an employee asked me to bring additional documents, despite the fact that the deadline is around the corner.”
Omar Balakhdar also complained about the overcrowded building and lack of staff. Applicants Bandar Al-Otaibi and Nael Al-Harbi were not able to complete their applications.
Abdel Moneim Al-Shehary, director of the labor office, said the office had recruited extra staff following the extension three months ago. He said staff members were working morning and evening shifts to provide services.