Manama: A member of the Shura (consultative) Council in Saudi Arabia has called for deporting around three million foreigners illegally residing in the country.

“We have noted the presence of massive numbers of foreigners, mainly from Africa and Asia, who have settled in Saudi Arabia,” Sadqa Fadhel said.

“They have opted for the large cities, especially in the western part of the kingdom and they have no intention to go home because they have come here to settle forever,” he said, quoted by Saudi daily Okaz on Sunday.

The Shura member added that some estimates put their numbers between three and five million.

“They have multiplied over three generations in some cases, but they are still staying illegally in the country and thus breaking the residency rules and all international norms and laws that ban the unlawful stay of anyone in other country,” he said.

Many of the illegals are caught up in criminal gangs and if they are arrested for a felony, its difficult to deport them because they have no nationality, Fadhel said.

Some neighbourhoods in the country look more African or Asian than Saudi, he pointed out.

Their presence poses an economic, security, social and health danger to the Saudis and legal residents, he said.

Fadhel submitted an official proposal to to Shura Council to establish a committee to look into the cases of illegal foreigners.

He said that it is possible that around one per cent of the illegals could be granted Saudi citizenship if they meet specific requirements.

He did not elaborate on the specific requirements.

The Shura Council is made up of 150 members, including 30 women.

Around 12 million of the 32 million people living in Saudi Arabia are foreigners, mainly unskilled and low-skilled workers from Asia and Africa working in the construction and service sectors.

Several lawmakers have been calling for drastic action to address the demographic imbalance in the country where two thirds of the people living there are foreigners.

In Kuwait, MP Safa Al Hashem has been spearheading a similar drive against foreigners by calling for imposing several taxes on foreigners as a way “to rectify the situation.”

According to studies, foreigners make up 49 per cent of the total population of 53 million people living in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), made up of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Saudi Arabia has also moved to crackdown on expatriates who overstay their visas, including those who were issued visit, work, Haj, Umrah or transit visas.

On March 19, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Nayef announced the “Nation Free of Violators” campaign to help undocumented expatriates regularise their status.

Under the amnesty, scheduled to start on March 29, any foreigner who has broken the residency and work laws and regulations will be able to leave the kingdom without paying any fines or being subject to legal action.

If they fail to regulate their status within the stipulated time, they face fines of up to 100,000 riyals.