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KATHMANDU - Saudi Arabia's amnesty offer to all illegal migrant workers will benefit more than 80,000 Nepalis stuck in the Gulf country as illegal employees, reports said Tuesday.
"Undocumented foreign workers can leave Saudi Arabia on exit-only visas without being penalized," said Saudi Labor Minister Adel Fakeih, as quoted by the Arab News and further cited by Nepali newspapers.
The offer means that illegal migrants will not be imprisoned as part of a punishment, but will be offered a chance to leave the country.
The main objective of the Saudi announcement is to clean up the labor market, according to the minister. "Foreign employees working in companies of Red category, which are not employing Saudi nationals, will also have to return to their home countries, " he said.
It is believed that some 1 million workers from different countries are working illegally in Saudi Arabia and they will all have a safe passage to their home countries now without a prosecution.
"The move is positive, as it does not imprison illegal employees and instead, paves way for a safe departure to their home countries," said Uday Raj Pandey, Nepal's ambassador to Saudi Arabia.
Earlier in 2011, the Saudi government had declared a similar amnesty to around 300,000 illegal workers of different nationalities.
Saudi Arabia is emerging as one of the favorite destinations for Nepali migrant workers. Of the total 8 million migrant workers in Saudi Arabia, the numbers of Nepalis stand around 500,000.