Saudi Exodus as 2 million Expats Arrested in 12 Months

Authorities in Saudi Arabia have arrested or deported an unprecedented 2.1 million foreigners since November 2017, accused of residing in the country in violation of residency and labour regulations, according to the latest tranche of statistics from the Saudi government.

Almost 100,000 arrests have been reported in the past week alone. Officials confirmed that 541,087 people have been deported from the country since November 2017, according to official figures from the Directorate General of Passports (Jawazat) in Riyadh.

The government’s uncompromising campaign, which is run under the banner of the Nation Free of Illegal Expats, was launched last year and is overseen by the Interior Ministry and the Jawazat. The Saudi government, whose de facto leader is the crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, is seeking to increase employment among Saudi nationals.

According to Saudi officials, more than 1.6 million illegal expatriates were arrested for violating their terms of residency, 323,435 for violating the labor regulations and 150,418 for breaching border security. A backlog of 301,018 are awaiting travel documents to leave the country.

The Jawazat’s latest statistics claim that 1,673 foreign residents were arrested attempting to leave the country illegally.

Jobless in Jeddah
Riyadh’s crackdown comes as conditions for expat workers worsen across the GCC. The new tranche of statistics was published a week after Saudi officials terminated 71% of expat contracts in government jobs.

Fellow GCC member Kuwait is planning to cull 1.5 million expats from payrolls over the next seven years, as reported this week by International Investment.



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