Riyadh - 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 on 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 neighbourhood 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.