Manama: More than 11,670 Sudanese have left Saudi Arabia during the grace period offered to foreigners staying illegally in the kingdom either to formalise their stay or to leave.
“We had 11,678 Sudanese who left voluntarily before the end of the amnesty on November 4,” Khalid Fath Al Rahman, the deputy head of the Sudanese mission in Riyadh, said.
“The decision to regularise the status of all foreigners in the Saudi kingdom was within the legal framework and preserved the rights of all parties involved. Our diplomatic mission exerted special efforts to help the members of the Sudanese community to formalise their residence and we have officials who are following up their cases with the allocated centres,” he said in remarks carried by the official Sudan News Agency (SUNA).
The diplomat said that the Saudi decision would not affect relations between Khartoum and Riyadh, explaining that the Saudis wanted to address the situation within its legal framework.
Reports indicated that around 20,000 foreigners had been deported out of the 42,000, who had been detained following the end of the grace period, he said.
“The numbers of Sudanese nationals held in the Eastern Province and in Riyadh were 43 and 26 respectively. They were released to allow them to regularise their status,” he said.
According to the diplomat, around 500,000 Sudanese nationals live in Saudi Arabia.
The kingdom has a foreign population of around nine million, making up one third of the total population.
A seven-month amnesty was given to all foreigners staying or working illegally to formalise their status and avoid fines and arrest.
Raids by the police to check documents in Riyadh early last month resulted in clashes with members of the Ethiopian community.
At least one Saudi onlooker and one Ethiopian were killed in the clashes in one of the most crowded neighbourhoods in the southern part of the capital.
Local reports said that more than 700,000 Ethiopians, mostly without documents, lived in Riyadh.
The clashes prompted the Saudi authorities to set up special centres to accommodate the Ethiopians willing to go home.
However, the slow process has often exacerbated tensions.
Saudis said that despite several requests, they could not receive the needed assistance required to identify the Ethiopian applicants formally before their deportation.