Over 39,000 people have been deported since October 2016 over visa violations and security concerns, the Saudi Gazette reported, citing unnamed interior ministry officials. As well as crimes including drug trafficking, forgery and theft, an unknown number of those removed from the country were suspected to have links to ISIS and other extremist groups, the paper said.
The alleged mass deportations come after a year of strikes and other unrest in the kingdom due to unpaid wages following the oil market’s decline and subsequent blow to the Saudi economy.
Official Saudi statistics say that 243,000 Pakistanis were deported between 2012 – 2015. Mass deportations of migrant workers – which often involve illegal beatings and detainment in poor conditions – arefairly common.
Several prominent Saudi politicians, including Abdullah Al-Sadoun, chair of the security committee of the country’s Shura Council, have called for tougher screening processes for Pakistani nationals before they are allowed entry into the country.
“Pakistan itself is plagued with terrorism due to its close proximity with Afghanistan. The Taliban extremist movement was itself born in Pakistan,” he said.
Approximately 80 Pakistani nationals are currently in prison in Saudi Arabia charged with terror or security related offences.