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Saudi Arabia arrests thousands of illegal migrant workers

5 November 2013 - Al Jazeera. Saudi authorities rounded up more than 4,000 illegal foreign workers at the start of a nationwide crackdown ultimately aimed at creating more jobs for locals, media reported on Tuesday.

Saudi authorities rounded up more than 4,000 illegal foreign workers at the start of a nationwide crackdown ultimately aimed at creating more jobs for locals, media reported on Tuesday.

Hundreds of thousands of workers have already left the kingdom following a grace period of seven months during which authorities told expatriates that if they did not fix their legal status they had to leave the country or face jail.

Many workers stayed off the streets to avoid checkpoints looking for invalid labor papers as a special task force of 1,200 Labor Ministry officials combed shops, construction sites, restaurants and businesses. Police manned roadblocks to enforce the kingdom's strict labor rules that make it virtually impossible to remain in the country without an official employee-sponsor.

The campaign reflects a wider drive to trim reliance on foreign workers across the Gulf Arab states, whose rulers fear the changing demographics of the region. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and other countries have aggressively supported proposals to open more jobs for their own citizens, worrying that chronic unemployment could feed dissent and challenges to their power.

"We want more Saudi men and women to work in the private and public sectors," Saudi Deputy Labor Minister Mufrej Al-Haqbani told reporters Sunday just before the end of an "amnesty" period for the estimated 1.5 million foreigners — about 16 percent of the total 9 million non-Saudi work force — who are believed to have violated residency and labor rules by leaving their sponsors, sneaking into the country or simply staying after making the Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca. Workers had until Monday to comply with the law or face arrest and deportation.

Source: http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2013/11/5/saudi-arabia-arreststhousandsofillegalmigrantworkers.htmla

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