-Embassy to facilitate process
-Illegal workers not leaving within the grace period to face up to 100,000 riyals in fine Those going to Saudi Arabia on a visit visa or pilgrimage visa could also benefit from the amnesty
KATHMANDU, March 27: The Nepali embassy in Riyadh has urged Nepalis working illegally in Saudi Arabia to make use of the amnesty announced by the Saudi government, pledging to do the needful for their hassle-free home return.
The Gulf kingdom last week announced mass amnesty for undocumented workers offering them a 90-day grace period to find a new employer in Saudi Arabia or leave the country without being penalized. The amnesty, which will begin from Wednesday, is expected to benefit around 2.5 million workers including 40,000 Nepalis working there, according to the Nepali embassy in Riyadh.
Issuing a notice on Sunday, the embassy said that workers who became undocumented before 19 March this year are eligible to apply for the amnesty. Besides regular workers who overstayed violating the immigration rules, those going to Saudi Arabia on visit visas or pilgrimage visas could also benefit from the amnesty.
“The embassy urges all workers concerned to apply for and take benefit of the amnesty before the 90-day grace period expires,” the embassy said in the notice.
Nepal's mission in Riyadh and its consulates in the Sunni kingdom would facilitate the application process, the embassy said, adding that it would also arrange travel documents for the workers even without passports upon the submission of the required proofs.
“The workers are required to submit an online application. Those unable to submit the online application are asked to take help from the volunteers mobilized by the embassy,” reads the notice.
Nepali officials say that the amnesty has come as a big opportunity for the Nepali workers without a legal status. They hope that thousands of undocumented workers stranded in Saudi Arabia are likely to benefit from the amnesty. When the Saudi government announced a similar grace period in 2013, more than 50,000 migrant Nepali workers had benefited.
Though exact data is hard to come by, the Nepali embassy in Riyadh estimates the number of undocumented Nepalis including women at more than 40,000. Of them, more than 10,000 were rendered jobless due to the massive layoff campaigns initiated by the companies there in recent months.
Saudi authorities have described this as an effort to flush out foreigners stranded in the kingdom.
The Saudi media reported that the government there is mulling some harsh measures including hefty fines for those not leaving the country within the grace period. Quoting a high level Saudi official, the Saudi media reported that the undocumented workers not making use of the amnesty would face fines ranging from 15,000 to 100,000 riyals (Approximately Rs 420,000 to Rs 2,800,000). Sulaiman Al Yahya, who is the head of Saudi Arabia's department of passport, told Saudi daily Al Sharq last week that the undocumented workers “should seize the chance (to regulate their status) because it may not come again.”
Saudi Arabia is one of the largest recipients of Nepali migrant workers. The country hired 138,529 Nepalis in fiscal year 2015-16, more than any other country.