The Slatest

Saudi Arabia Rounds Up Thousands of Illegal Immigrants In Nationwide Crackdown

Foreign workers show their passports as they gather outside a Saudi immigration office waiting for an exit permit.

Photo by FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP/Getty Images

Saudi authorities rounded up thousands of illegal foreign workers in the country after a seven-month grace period for undocumented workers to leave or attain legal status came to an end. The nationwide crackdown comes after hundreds of thousands of workers have already left the country and is part of a broader effort to create more jobs for Saudis, Reuters reports. Officially unemployment in Saudi Arabia stands at 12 percent, but that excludes many citizens who are not looking for work.

Police carried out raids on businesses, markets and residential areas looking for foreign workers with visas that aren’t working for the companies that sponsored their visas, making them invalid, according to Reuters. The Saudi Gazette described day two of the crack down, this way:

Meanwhile, the streets of many cities were quiet. Building sites were deserted, Riyadh’s stuttering rush-hour traffic flowed smoothly and many shops and market stalls were closed in normally busy neighborhoods that are home to large numbers of the expat community. In the Riyadh Industrial Zone, where many workers are foreigners, most shops were closed on Monday morning, according to a witness who said he saw a dozen people scurry for cover when they heard a police siren from a nearby road.

A long queue stretched down the road outside a visa office as foreign workers tried to leave without paying fines for overstaying. Some carried personal possessions in hopes of leaving immediately.