DUBAI: Saudi Arabia today warned illegal foreign workers, including Indians, that they will face jail and fines once the three-month grace period ends on July 3, but those willing to return to India will not face any penalty.
In a joint statement, the Saudi Ministries of Interior and Labour confirmed that an inspection campaign will resume soon after the deadline to enforce the new labour and immigration laws, known as the Nitaqat law.
Over two million Indians are currently working in Saudi Arabia. There has been widespread perception that the new policy will lead to denial of job opportunities for a large number of Indians working there.
The ‘Nitaqat’ law makes it mandatory for local firms to hire one Saudi national for every 10 migrant workers.
A delegation led by Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi visited the Kingdom two weeks ago to raise concerns about the Nitaqat law.
During the talks, both sides had agreed to set up a joint working group to address “all immediate problems” facing the Indians including issues related to overstaying workers.
Riyadh has assured India that those who want to come back to Saudi on a new sponsor they can do so. Similarly, those who would like to go back to old sponsors, they will be permitted to do so subject to fulfilling other requirements.
On its part, the Indian government has conveyed its deep sense of gratitude for Saudi’s gesture.
A senior Indian diplomat in Saudi has said over 60,000 Indian workers are seeking emergency travel documents.
Today’s statement urged those whose work and residency permits have expired, to take advantage of the amnesty without penalty, including “special measures” that would allow a change of employer under certain conditions.
According to these “special measures”, all violators who would like to correct their situations and stay for work in the Gulf state will be exempted from all punishments and fines, except for government fees, related to their violations which took place before April 6.
The amnesty does not cover those who entered the country illegally. More than 200,000 foreigners have been deported from the country over the past few months as part of labour market reforms aimed at putting more Saudi nationals into private sector jobs.