Kingdom deports 700,000 illegals annually: Official

By a Staff Writer
Publication Date: 
Tue, 2002-05-21 03:00

JEDDAH, 21 May — Saudi Arabia, home to around seven million foreigners, deports more than 700,000 illegal immigrants every year, a senior Interior Ministry official said in an interview published yesterday.

Most of the deportees had failed to leave the Kingdom after their pilgrimage visas expired, Lt. Col. Fahd Al-Watheenani, director of the ministry’s expatriate department in Jeddah, told Al-Madinah newspaper.

“We receive at least 2,000 illegals per day from all over the Kingdom,” Watheenani said.

“It takes us three to five days to deport them,” after finalizing their papers with their consulates in Jeddah.

Saudi companies that transported pilgrimage overstayers must pay for their return airfare, while Saudi sponsors pay the fares for residence law violators, he said.

The authorities regularly announce the arrests of mainly Arab and Asian Muslims who arrive in the Kingdom to perform pilgrimage, but then choose to remain there to look for jobs in breach of visa regulations.

Illegal immigrants are deported while landlords renting accommodations to them face prison terms and fines.

The government has launched a campaign to reduce the number of foreigners by hiking fees on recruitment and offering incentives for nationals to replace foreign labor in the private sector.

The unemployment rate in the Kingdom is estimated at 10 to 15 percent.

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