Saudi Arabia has arrested a whopping 3.87 million foreigners in its clampdown against violators of labour and residency laws that started in November 2017, the state-run Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.
The Gulf state, known for its stringent rules against illegals, intensified its campaign against those who break regulations related to residential, labour and border security two years ago.
The campaign was also seen as a measure to protect the employment opportunities for Saudi nationals, who have faced severe unemployment in recent years. The country, which has a population of 30 million, is on a drive to replace migrant workers with its own workforce in a move to cut unemployment rate, which was 12.5 percent in the first quarter of 2019.
Saudi authorities have taken into custody 3.02 million foreigners for violating regulations related to residency, while 595,796 foreigners were arrested for flouting labour laws. In addition, 252,128 foreigners have been arrested for violating other rules.
As many as 65,679 people were also arrested by the border police while trying to enter the country illegally at different check posts. Of this, 52 percent were from Ethiopia, while Yemenis constitute another 45 percent, the news agency said, citing an official release.
Around 4,522 people were also held for their involvement in transporting and harbouring the illegals, who breached the state's regulations.
Among the offenders, penalties were imposed on 5.39 lakh offenders, while another 4.92 lakh illegals were transferred to their respective diplomatic missions for obtaining travel documents. Around 645,114 people were also asked to book tickets, while other 962,234 offenders were deported.
The ongoing clampdown on illegal foreigners started after a 7-month-long amnesty almost two years ago. Saudi has granted the amnesty for those who overstayed or do not have a valid visa to either regularise their status or leave the country without paying a penalty. The authorities also warned of hefty penalties of 15,000 Saudi riyals to 100,000 riyals, depending on the period of overstay, for those illegals who do not avail the facility.
According to media reports, as many as 7.5 lakh people from 140 countries availed the amnesty facility.
Ethiopians constitute the maximum number of undocumented migrants in the Kingdom, who take up varying jobs ranging from housemaids to construction workers.