Fate of illegal expatriates in Saudi Arabia hangs in balance

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Saudi authorities have stipulated that only expatriates who were in violation of labour laws prior to April 6, the beginning of the grace period, are now eligible for deportation.
Thousands of Asian expatriates, including Pakistanis who became labour law violators during the seven-month grace period are being held at the Shumaisy deportation centre and are unable to leave even though they have no criminal records.
The deportation criteria are creating confusion among the thousands who were unable to legalise their work status between April and November and who see no end in sight to their dilemma.
Thousands of foreign workers were declared as absconders by their sponsors following the announcement of the grace period to avoid incurring penalties and to maintain a clean track record. Yet such a move has made matters worse for those who were unable to secure final-exit visas during the grace period owing to their inability to acquire paperwork because of their “absconding” status.
This segment of expatriates now finds itself in a quandary with no hope of deportation.
There are currently 10,148 expatriates being held at the Shumaisy deportation centre. Majority of the expatriates languishing at the centre come from Pakistan, Indonesia, Bangladeshi and the Philippines.
According to informed sources, local authorities are granting exit visas to Umrah and Haj pilgrim overstayers even after the expiration of the grace period.
For instance, some 350 Indonesian pilgrims were granted exit after November 3. Scores of Pakistanis also managed to secure the exit permits.
Ethiopian youth staged a road blockade on Sitteen Street, also known as King Fahd Road, a few days ago. And so hundreds of illegal Ethiopian and Pakistani expatriates rushed to the site in the hope of being arrested.