Riyadh, Saudi Arabia — The Philippine government said it fears more than 100,000 Filipinos could be arrested in Saudi Arabia if found to be working for employers other than their original visa sponsors, as the Saudi authorities began a crackdown on illegal foreign workers Monday.
In the Saudi capital of Riyadh, many foreigners stayed home from work Monday to avoid the promised raids on businesses, markets, and residential areas. The streets were also largely deserted, said a report from The Economic Times.
Saudi Arabia has a total of about nine million foreign workers living in the kingdom.
Prior to the expiration of the amnesty on Monday, the Saudi government repeatedly issued warnings to foreigners to correct their status or face punishments which include prison, fines and deportation, according to The Economic Times report.
The Philippine government said it is ready to assist Filipinos who have not yet come home as a result of the immigration law.
The Saudi government is determined to weed out foreign workers who are not abiding by the immigration laws, as part of a “Saudization” policy.
Lito Soriano, a migration and recruitment consultant, said there are about 108,000 irregular or undocumented Filipinos in Saudia Arabia as of December 2012, according to a philnews.com report.
The Saudi government gave foreign nationals until Nov 3 to correct their statuses or return to their home countries.
Vice President Jejomar Binay of the Philippines said he sent a letter to the Saudi king requesting an extension of the four-month grace period given in July.
Soriano, however, said the Saudi government has already ruled out an extension.