Saudi Arabia’s restrictive naturalization and immigration policy invites other forms of short-term migration into the country. The state is a major destination point for irregular migrants, particularly from Asia and Africa. Mass labour migration to Saudi Arabia began in the 1970s when the oil boom required workers to sustain the economy.
Since then, the country has had to manage a large presence of undocumented labour migrants and curb the flow of irregular migrants. “Saudization,” the most recently implemented immigration policy, is meant to reserve available jobs for local youth and retain labour opportunities for Saudi-born citizens. Increasingly restrictive, the policy includes blocking borders and mass deportation. These practices contravene international human rights standards for migrant workers.
The Government of Saudi Arabia has launched ‘A Nation Without Violations’ campaign to “give residency and labor law violators 90 days to leave the country without penalties.” The policy resembles the 2013-2014 deportation measures, which evacuated an estimated 2.5 million labour migrants living with irregular status. According to Al Arabia, an estimated 5 million illegal immigrants will be deported under the current program. The Minister of the Interior urged these so-called labour law violators to use the given pardon period to correct their status. These include people residing in the country without residence or work permits, or those who overstayed their Haj or Umrah visit visas.
The Nation Without Violations campaign will be implemented by 19 government agencies. Government authorities are directed to facilitate the proper procedures for illegal residences who wish to leave within the 90 day period. Apart from deportation measures, the plan will also result in penalties for those who do not regularize their status or leave the country during the grace period.
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