Saudi Arabia grants amnesty for thousands of Sri Lankan workers

Saudi Arabia has granted amnesty for thousands of Sri Lankan migrant workers who gathered under the Sarbia Bridge in Jeddah, to leave the country, following talks between the Saudi Arabian government and the Sri Lanka Foreign Employment Bureau (SLFEB),  ‘Ceylon Today’ reported on Monday.

Following Saudi authorities’ annual cracking down on illegal migrant workers, Sri Lankan nationals too assembled under the bridge.

SLBFE’s spokesman Mangala Randeniya said that along with migrant workers from India, Bangladesh and Philippines, over 6,000 Sri Lankan migrant workers assembled under the bridge and the talks were focused on waiving the penalty and other charges for working or living illegally in Saudi Arabia.

“These workers had changed their status and their sponsors and are considered illegal workers in that country,” Randeniya said adding that past records of all illegal workers under the bridge are being examined by the Saudi government.

“We are arranging for their exit permits. They can be sent home in batches of 25 each everyday and it will take at least three months to complete the repatriation,” he said.

Umrah and Haj pilgrims who had opted to stay back and work, have also gathered under the bridge.

Randeniya said: “This is the time the Saudi government grants amnesty and calls on all illegal migrants to go home.  The migrants who have decided to go back home have assembled under the bridge.”

However, stringent rules demanding a penalty from the migrant workers have been introduced by the Saudi government which has also refused to give air tickets for them. However, SLBFE has agreed to give air ticket to those who cannot afford it.



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