The illegal immigrants in Saudi Arabia who have been granted a general pardon have been asked to leave the country by Saturday.
A significant number of the people on the list are of Bangladeshi origin, raising fear and anxiety among the Bangladeshi expatriate community.
Besides the high proportion of Bangladeshi immigrants on the list, there are also immigrants from India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Pakistan and a few other Middle Eastern countries who have been asked to leave.
A source from the Saudi Immigration Office said that even though 110,000 foreign nationals had so far left Saudi Arabia, a total of 525,000 visas had been issued since June 15 for illegal immigrants under the Saudi government's general pardon initiative.
Another 415,000 immigrants were waiting to go back home as well. These numbers could increase further, according to offices working with the issue.
Asked about the number of Bangladeshi nationals, Bangladesh Embassy’s deputy chief of mission for Riyadh Md Nazrul Islam told Bangla Tribune: “Until now, 35,000 Bangladeshis have received travel passes from the Bangladesh embassy and consulate. But it's hard to say how many of them have returned home.
“We hope Saudi officials will give the embassy more information when the process ends on June 24. Then we can provide a more accurate figure for the number of Bangladeshis who have returned to the country.”
Saudi Immigration Department Director Major General Solaiman Al-Suhaibani, in a statement, said: “If illegal immigrants do not leave Saudi Arabia within the shortest possible time, strict legal action will be taken against them.”
He said the immigration offices would remain open even during the holidays before Eid to assist in the immigration process.
It is learnt that thousands of people have returned to their countries after receiving general pardons, and are returning to Saudi Arabia again after receiving new visas.
The Saudi immigration office has decided to clamp down on this issue as well, said sources.
The immigration office said in a warning that even though the Saudi government had previously given 90 days in the case of a general pardon, June 24 is the deadline now.
Even though exit visas have a grace period of 60 days, this rule will not be effective for the recipients of general pardons, according to Saudi officials.