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Saudi amnesty: 15,000 illegal Lankan workers return home

2013 Nov 07

Around 15,000 illegal workers returned to Sri Lanka on an amnesty provided by the Saudi Arabian government, an official said today.

“Majority of the Sri Lankans qualified as illegal workers have been sent back,” the Sri Lankan Foreign Employment Bureau spokesman Mangala Randeniya told Khaleej Times.

“There are a few workers who have been left behind as they do not qualify under the criteria set out by the Saudi authorities, but we are working with Saudi officials to bring them back,” said Randeniya.

According to the Sri Lankan Foreign Employment Bureau, around 1,500 illegal workers from Sri Lanka, who do not possess the relevant documents, are still stuck in Saudi Arabia. These workers have to be re-introduced into the system, upon which they will be detained in camps for three to four months and then released, said the Sri Lankan official.

“The Sri Lankan embassy in Saudi Arabia is requesting all illegal workers to come forward and produce themselves to the authorities so that we can help them,” said Randeniya. Illegal expatriates living in the Kingdom were given a three month grace period by the Saudi authorities in April this year, which was later extended until November 3 after many requests.

Nearly a million Bangladeshis, Indians, Filipinos, Nepalis, Pakistanis, Yemenis and Sri Lankans are estimated to have been deported in the last three months. Four million others obtained work permits before the Sunday’s deadline.

After the lapse of the amnesty period, migrant workers remaining illegally will have to pay around $23,000 and serve a one-year prison term as the Saudi government clamps down on errant illegal workers. - Khaleej Times

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