Saudi deports 370,000 illegal workers

RIYIADH - Around 370,000 illegal workers have been deported from Saudi Arabia since the oil-rich kingdom started a crackdown on migrants five months ago, authorities said on Thursday.

"Some 18,413 more illegal expatriates are waiting for deportation from state-run temporary shelters to their countries," the spokesman for the Saudi Passport Department, Ahmed al-Luhaidan said, according to the Saudi daily newspaper al-Riyadh.

Saudi authorities started in November a nationwide clampdown against illegal immigrants after the end of a seven-month grace period given to them to legalise their status or leave.

The government says the campaign is ultimately aimed at providing jobs for Saudis, as the official unemployment in the country stands at 12%.

Most of an estimated 8 million expatriates in Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil exporter, come from India, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Ethiopia, Yemen and Egypt.

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