Saudi Arabia may extend the three-month grace period given to foreign workers to correct their status, the daily Saudi Gazette reported on Tuesday. The extension comes after requests from Indonesia and the Philippines who said they need more time to process the paperwork of thousands of their nationals living illegally in the Kingdom. The deadline is July 3.
A video of a Saudi officer beating foreign workers at the Passport Office in Jeddah is raising concerns about the country’s latest crackdown on illegal expats. The video uploaded to YouTube on shows the officer in green uniform as he slaps a dark-skinned man then using his belt to beat others. The officer can be heard shouting: “dog!” and telling women in abayas to leave: “Get out! Yalla! Get out!”
The man who uploaded the clip told Riyadh Bureau that the video was recorded earlier on Sunday by his father who has taken his two housemaids to the crowded Passport Office to get their fingerprints taken. The place was very crowded because many illegal workers wanted to legalize their status, the man said. (See update below)
Saudi Arabia launched a campaign earlier this year to deport illegal workers in the country, part of a push to create more jobs for its citizens. Local media reported that inspectors have raided many places around the country where they suspect illegal workers are employed. However, the campaign was halted in April when King Abdullah ordered a 3 months grace period to rectify their situation or face deportation.
The Kingdom is home to around 10 million foreigners, mainly from south Asia working in construction and service sectors. Many of them have been working in the country for several years. Saudi Gazette said last week that more than 200,000 foreigners staying illegally in the Kingdom were deported over the period from November 2012 until March 2013.
Local media reported of long lines outside the embassies of India, Pakistan, Indonesia and the Philippines as thousands of workers sought documentation from their respective diplomatic missions to legalize their job status and stay.
The Passport Department spokesman told Arab News today that more than 326,000 workers have so far taken advantage of the grace period to legalize their status. He also added that around 124,000 illegal residents had already left the country and 139,000 expatriates had transferred their sponsorship.
The grace period ends July 3.
UPDATE: Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Naif has ordered the officer who appeared in the video to be suspended and investigated, an official spokesman said, according to a statement published by the state new agency on Tuesday night. “This behavior cannot be accepted regardless of the justifications,” said the spokesman, who described the officer’s behavior as “regrettable and in violation of the most basic principles of security work.