ISLAMABAD -  800,000 Pakistani workers have legalised their status so far ahead of the fast approaching amnesty deadline, Pakistani Ambassador Muhammad Naeem Khan said.

During an interview with the Arab News, the envoy thanked the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah and Crown Prince Salman for their decision to extend the amnesty deadline for expatriates until Nov 3.

“I would also like to extend my appreciation to the Saudi Ministries of Interior, Foreign Affairs and Labour as well as the Immigration Department for their cooperation and support especially to the Pakistani community in the Kingdom,” Naeem Khan said.

“It is a huge success for us to achieve the goal to legalise our nationals,” he added. The Ambassador pointed out that a total of 729,932 Pakistani workers have already benefited from the amnesty deadline, while more than 396,152 nationals have already changed their sponsorships and 333,780 workers their professions to legalise their status in the Kingdom.  “Our assessment is that more than 800,000 people have corrected their status, if we include those who came to Saudi Arabia on Umrah and Haj visas and other domestic workers like drivers, housemaids, watchman and agricultural workers,” he said.

“It would be helpful for those remaining Pakistanis who have not yet been able to regularise their status if special concession and grace period is announced by the Saudi authorities,”  he added. Addressing the issue of nationals who will not be able to correct their status, the Ambassador said: “We are going to start a new registration campaign after the amnesty deadline in which we will facilitate procedures for those who are not covered by the existing amnesty period.”  Elaborating on this, he said: “The Embassy has created 80 different focal points all over the Kingdom to help illegal workers register with the Embassy.” “We have arranged many job fairs inside the Embassy and in many Pakistani institutions in Riyadh, Jeddah, Alkhobar, Dammam and Jubail. Staff members at the diplomatic missions in the Pakistani Embassy and the Consulate General in Jeddah worked day in and day out,” he said.

“We are thankful to representatives of participating companies, whose contribution is important for the rectification of illegal workers,” he said.  The Ambassador added: “We also thank Pakistani volunteers for their facilities and their valuable time in helping undocumented workers. More than 400 companies have already registered at the Pakistani Embassy to recruit those workers.” Naeem Khan emphasised the fact that all undocumented workers must legalise their status before the Nov 3 deadline. He urged Pakistani workers who did find jobs to coordinate with the Embassy and Consulate General in Jeddah for help. With the new concessions in the Saudi Arabian labour laws, he explained, “workers who arrived in the Kingdom after April 6 as freelancers or those who  are declared as runaway workers are not included in the amnesty. They should not hesitate to register with the Embassy, focal points and the Consulate General in Jeddah.” “Umrah and Haj overstayers who possess no documentation to claim that they entered the Kingdom legally and are not even fingerprinted, should immediately contact us.

We will try to help them and find a way to legalise them.”

The Ministry of Labour earlier stressed that after the expiry of the amnesty deadline, penalties will be imposed on violators and their employers.

The recruiters of illegal workers could face jail upto two years and fines of up to SR 100,000.