World Bulletin /News Desk
The Nigerian government confirmed on Sunday that 526 Nigerians have been arrested for staying illegally in Saudi Arabia, denying they were mistreated by Saudi authorities.
"The Saudi authorities have arrested 526 Nigerians illegally living there since the three month amnesty granted illegal immigrants to regularize their documents lapsed," Nigerian Consul General in Jeddah Ahmed Umar reporters in Abuja, Nigeria's political capital.
"This is not peculiar to Nigerians, so the question of witch-hunt does not arise," he asserted.
The diplomat said 45 of that number have been issued emergency travel certificates for immediate deportation to Nigeria.
Saudi authorities have offered to bear the cost of their deportation, he noted.
Umar said the arrested Nigerians had not heeded consular advice to regularize their papers and so were to blame for their woes.
"We have been talking to our people and holding town hall meetings on the need for them to come forward and regularize their papers but they became very adamant and complacent," he recalled.
The diplomat refuted claims that those arrested are being detained under inhuman conditions.
He insisted that they are being held at the "general service center in al-Shumaisi, near Makkah, equipped with modern facilities."
Umar advised any Nigerian living illegally in the oil-rich Gulf kingdom to come forward with their data.
"We will forward to the appropriate Saudi authorities to forestall future occurrence of this widespread clamp down."
There are no official statistics on the total number of Nigerians in Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia to deport illegal workers
More than 35,000 illegal workers are being held at a detention center in Al-Shumaysi in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Makkah Region Police spokesman Albay Badr bin Saud al-Saud said.
Among the expats, 24,000 are adult males and 11,000 are females and children. “Most of them are of Ethiopian, Indonesian and Somali nationality,” added the spokesman.
Around nine million foreigners, working mainly in the construction and service sectors, live in Saudi Arabia.
They make up around one third of the total population.
So far 4,500 people have been deported to their countries from the Makkah region, and procedures are underway to deport those at detention centers throughout Saudi Arabia.
More than 60,000 illegal persons have been deported since the beginning of the security campaign on November 4, the Interior Ministry announced a few days ago.Last Mod: 25 Kasım 2013, 14:46