4m illegal workers in Saudi correct status

Extended amnesty period sees widespread visa corrections
Asian laborers work at a flyover construction site in eastern Riyadh on April 7, 2013. Saudi Arabia has given illegal foreign workers a three-month grace period to legalize their status, after panic over reported mass deportations, an official statement said. (AFP/Getty Images)
By Courtney Trenwith
Tue 16 Jul 2013 11:00 AM

Four million expat workers in Saudi Arabia have had their visa status corrected since an amnesty began four months ago, according to the Labour Ministry.

Up to 1.12m people had corrected their registered professions and more than 1.6m work permits had been renewed during the amnesty, deputy minister for inspections and developing work atmosphere Abdullah Abuthnain said, according to Arab News.

More than 575,000 corrections had been carried out by the construction sector, 220,172 by the trade sector, at least 60,000 in the food sector, 60,100 in downstream industries and 55,100 in the workshops and maintenance sector, Abuthnain said.

A total of 42,836 workers transferred their registered jobs to the contracting, cleaning and maintenance sector, 26,566 to individual sponsors, 24,506 to the transport sector, 19,659 to the social services sector and 15,675 to the agricultural and fishing sector.

It is unknown how many expats working illegally in the kingdom have been deported, whether forcibly or voluntarily.

The kingdom announced the amnesty as part of its push to weed out illegal workers as it tackles high unemployment among locals.

It is estimated there are about 12m expats in the kingdom.

Employers are reportedly keen to keep labourers in the country as it undergoes a huge building programme.

King Abdullah recently extended the initial three-month amnesty for another three months, to November 4.

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