World

Report: Saudi authorities detained 16,000 migrants in crackdown on foreign workers

FILE - In this Monday, Oct. 14, 2013 file photo, Muslim pilgrims raise their hands to receive umbrellas in front of a rocky hill called the Mountain of Mercy, on the Plain of Arafat near the holy city of Mecca. Some pilgrims who go to Saudi Arabia to perform pilgrimage stay on illegally in the kingdom in search of work. Saudi authorities are launching intensive nationwide security sweeps on businesses and setting up checkpoints in efforts to detain and deport an estimated 1.5 million foreign workers without proper documentation.  The crackdown reflects wider efforts by the kingdom to clear out slums and create jobs for its local workforce as leaders worry that rising unemployment could feed dissent and challenges to their rule by their own people. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

FILE - In this Monday, Oct. 14, 2013 file photo, Muslim pilgrims raise their hands to receive umbrellas in front of a rocky hill called the Mountain of Mercy, on the Plain of Arafat near the holy city of Mecca. Some pilgrims who go to Saudi Arabia to perform pilgrimage stay on illegally in the kingdom in search of work. Saudi authorities are launching intensive nationwide security sweeps on businesses and setting up checkpoints in efforts to detain and deport an estimated 1.5 million foreign workers without proper documentation. The crackdown reflects wider efforts by the kingdom to clear out slums and create jobs for its local workforce as leaders worry that rising unemployment could feed dissent and challenges to their rule by their own people. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)  (The Associated Press)

A Saudi-owned newspaper has reported that authorities have detained more than 16,000 migrant workers in the first 48 hours of a nationwide security sweep targeting foreigners working illegally in the kingdom.

Asharq al-Awsat quoted Saudi officials Wednesday as saying that nearly half of migrants were arrested near the southern border with Yemen. Another 5,000 had been detained in Mecca, where some Muslims stay on illegally after pilgrimage. Less than 1,000 were detained in the main city of Riyadh.

A resident in the poorer neighborhood of el-Manhoufa in Riyadh told The Associated Press he saw police stopping people outside a mosque after prayers and arresting those who did not have the correct papers on them.

The sweep is aimed largely at creating more job opportunities for the kingdom's local workforce.