Saudi Arabia has expelled nearly 40,000 Pakistani migrant workers over the past four months amid widespread international criticism of the Riyadh regime’s mistreatment of foreign workers in the kingdom.
Local media recently cited unnamed Interior Ministry officials as saying that more than 39,000 people have been deported from Saudi Arabia since October 2016 over visa violations, security concerns and crimes.
According to a report by the Saudi Gazette, an unknown number of those deported were suspected of having links to terror groups, including Daesh.
The news comes as Saudi Arabia has been hit by a year of strikes and protests over unpaid wages as the plunge in global oil prices and the kingdom’s multi-billion-dollar military campaign in Yemen has struck a direct blow to the country’s economy.
Millions of poor Asians are working in the Persian Gulf states. Human rights groups say many of the workers suffer exploitation and abuses, including non-payment of wages.
A court in Mecca in January sentenced dozens of foreign construction workers to lashes and jail for a protest held several months ago over unpaid wages.
Foreigners account for nearly 30 percent of Saudi Arabia’s 27-million-strong population, according to 2010 census figures.
Official statistics in Saudi Arabia indicate that 243,000 Pakistanis had been expelled between 2012-2015.
According to a 2014 report by the European University Institute, there are around 900,000 Pakistani nationals are currently working in the kingdom’s low-paid jobs, particularly the construction industry.
Human Rights Watch and other rights organizations had slammed mass deportations of migrant workers, which are fairly common in the kingdom, saying they often involve physical abuse and detention in poor conditions.