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21 Indians arrested in Saudi crackdown on illegal expatriates

Riyadh, July 1 (IANS): In a major crackdown on illegal immigrants, police in Saudi Arabia have arrested 21 Indians for residing illegally in the country, media reported Tuesday.

Riyadh police conducted the major field operation to catch labour law violators with the help of aerial surveillance for the last six days which covered remote farms, villages and courtyards on the outskirts of Riyadh, the Arab News reported.

"Individuals who were arrested included expats who have been residing illegally in the country," Fawaz Al-Maiman, Riyadh police spokesman, was quoted as saying.

The total 282 illegal immigrants arrested include 134 Ethiopians, 76 Yemenis, 21 Indians, 21 Pakistanis, four Bangladeshis and 17 Sudanese, while other violators were from Somalia and Syria and some new recruits.

Al-Maiman said police had cordoned-off agricultural fields with the help of security authorities to arrest the illegals.

Saudi Arabia started a crackdown on illegal workers since April last year.

The government issued an amnesty period giving illegal migrants seven months to gain legal status.

Since then, one million Bangladeshis, Indians, Filipinos, Nepalis, Pakistanis and Yemenis have left the country.

The government created a task force of 1,200 labour ministry officials who raided shops, construction sites, restaurants and businesses in a hunt for foreign workers employed without permits.

The Saudi labour ministry warned illegal workers who overstay the amnesty period that they would be subject to a penalty of 100,000 Saudi riyals (around $26,663) and a two-year jail term, the report said.